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Showing posts from September, 2022

Review: Passover, Here I Come!

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Passover, Here I Come! by D.J. Steinberg, illustrated by Emanuel Wiemans Grosset & Dunlap (imprint of Penguin Random House), 2022 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Karin Fisher-Golton Buy at Bookshop.org Passover, Here I Come! is the kind of book families will bring out each year to introduce or remind children of Passover traditions. This warm, colorful collection of short poems is the Passover addition to author D. J. Steinberg’s Here I Come! series, which includes books on starting preschool to second grade as well as books on other holidays—secular, Christian, and Jewish. Steinberg’s poems come in a variety of structures, including a poetic recipe for matzoh brei! Young readers will be engaged by the poems’ rhyme, rhythm, and humor. Topics include ways families prepare for and celebrate the holiday; child-oriented traditions (such as singing “Ma nishtana” and searching for the afikomen); and a brief version of the Exodus story. Names, vocabulary, and images depict an Ashkenazi

Review: Pinky Bloom and the Case of the Silent Shofar

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Pinky Bloom and the Case of the Silent Shofar by Judy Press, illustrated by Erica-Jane Waters Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group), 2022 Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Stacy Mozer Buy at Bookshop.org Pinky Bloom and the Case of the Silent Shofar is the second Pinky Bloom book I have reviewed for this blog, and it's just as much fun as the first. It's about a Jewish Brooklynite girl named Pinky (short for Penina) who solves crimes with the help of her little brother Ari. This series continues to be a good example of this genre, with Pinky taking on pet sitting duties, mysterious goings on at the pet shop, and her dad's inexplicably silent shofar. It would definitely be enjoyed by 6-8 year olds who enjoy mystery series such as A to Z Mysteries, Cam Jansen mysteries, or Ballpark Mysteries. This book has positive and authentic Jewish religious or cultural content and is appropriate for the intended grade level in style, vocabulary, format, and illustratio

Review: Until the Blueberries Grow

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Until the Blueberries Grow by Jennifer Wolf Kam, illustrated by Sally Walker PJ Publishing, 2022 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Shanna Silva The reader is introduced to Ben and his Zayde, who are best buds. They spend a lot of time together and Zayde appears to be Ben’s primary male role model (the illustrations feature a mom and younger sibling, but no dad). When it’s time for Zayde to downsize and move, Ben is unable to accept this change. He convinces Zayde to delay his plans multiple times. A "for sale" sign subtly shows the reader the status of the move. During the postponement, Ben and Zayde celebrate Sukkot, Hanukkah, and Passover. Interestingly, the larger family is not shown celebrating holidays or spending time together. It’s all about Ben and his smartly dressed Zayde. As time passes, it’s clear that Zayde can’t defer any longer. An ominous illustration of a steep staircase shows the reader what Zayde sees, and how his needs have changed with age. Eventually, he

Review: Miriam and the Sasquatch: A Rosh Hashanah Story

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Miriam and the Sasquatch by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Tamara Anegon Apples & Honey Press (imprint of Behrman House), 2022 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Linda Elovitz Marshall Buy at Bookshop.org It’s early fall, and Rosh Hashanah is coming. Miriam gazes at an apple orchard, imagining a delicious honey-and-apple holiday feast. She enters the orchard, not to pick apples but to practice blowing her shofar where the sound won’t bother anyone. As she practices, she hears munching and crunching, gets bopped on the head by an apple, and discovers a sasquatch sitting in the tree, eating apples that she needs for Rosh Hashanah. She tells Sasquatch to stop, but Sassy keeps eating. She blows the shofar. Sassy howls back and keeps eating. She throws an apple. Sasquatch throws it back… and the apple hits a beehive, causing bees to swarm toward Miriam and Sasquatch. Miriam and Sassy run toward the pond for safety, but Miriam slips and falls. Sasquatch picks her up, and carries her to th

Review: How to Get to Savta's for Shabbat

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How to Get to Savta's for Shabbat written and illustrated by Varda Livney PJ Publishing, 2022 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Belinda Brock It's Erev Shabbat and time for the little boy in this story to get up and prepare for Shabbat at Savta's. Who wakes him up? His penguin friend! So the reader immediately knows this story will be fanciful. Next, the boy packs his backpack with things that help make Shabbat special, like candles, challah, and  grape juice. Fred, the blue elephant, picks them up and off they go on their fun adventure. They travel through the jungle and then the boy and the penguin board a rocket ship to the moon, float on a cloud, and ride a flying bus to reach their destination. Along the way, the boy stops to buy flowers for Savta. Happily, they arrive at Savta's just in time for Shabbat. The final scene shows Savta, the boy, his parents (who look like the bus driver and flower seller), the penguin, and the elephant happily sitting at the Shabbat t

Review: The Vanishing

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The Vanishing by David Michael Slater Library Tales Publishing, 2022 Category: Young Adult Reviewer: Merle Eisman Carrus Buy at Bookshop.org The story of the Golem goes back generations. The original Golem was created to help the Jewish people of Prague during a time of peril. Now author David Michael Slater uses a similar fantasy to make a very disturbing topic more palatable for the teen reader. This is a story of the faith, strength, and fortitude of a young girl as she helps her friend survive the most horrific experience of his life. Sophie Siegel and her parents have been moving from town to town as the pogroms are getting more prevalent. The rules increase, restricting the lives of the Jewish people. Sophie doesn't want to wear a yellow star on her jacket or stop going to school. The day she is finally to be awarded for her studiousness and be named Top Student in her class, the Nazis come to school and send all the Jewish children home. She and her friend Giddy next door s

Review: The Prince of Steel Pier

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The Prince of Steel Pier by Stacy Nockowitz Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group), 2022 Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Jacqueline Jules Buy at Bookshop.org Thirteen-year-old Joey Goodman spends every August in Atlantic City. His grandparents and Uncle Sol own the St. Bonaventure, an aging hotel on the Boardwalk which caters to elderly Jews. Every summer, at least one hotel guest passes away. And that is how The Prince of Steel Pier begins, with a line guaranteed to grab attention: “It’s nine o’clock on Friday morning and Mrs. Goldberg is definitely dead.” After seeing Mrs. Goldberg, Joey vomits and the rest of the family comments on his sensitive nature. Joey is tired of being called “squirt” by his two older brothers. He wants to prove himself as being brave and capable. But when he accidentally gets involved with Atlantic City mobsters, he finds that the support of family is exactly what he needs. This novel, which takes place in the 1970’s, just as the casinos w

Review: The Rosh Hashanah Recipe

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The Rosh Hashanah Recipe (Ruby Celebrates! series) by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov Albert Whitman & Company, 2022 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Sandy Wasserman Buy at Bookshop.org Ruby, her cousins, and even the dog are off to the apple orchard, baskets in hand! Apple picking turns into a contest, the kids versus the adults. When the kids win, they realize that together they've collected so many apples they don't know what to do with them all. Ruby comes up with a creative idea, to have a cooking show called "Cooking with the Cousins!" Together, they make apple lasagna, apple pizza and apple pancakes, and still have enough to give a basket of apples to a neighbor. After Rosh Hashanah services at synagogue, the family has a sweet New Year back at Bubbe's house. Only the dog still looks longingly at just one more apple! The story features a diverse extended family: most members are white, but biracial Cousin Avital's Dad is Black, a

Review: A Perfect Fit: How Lena "Lane" Bryant Changed the Shape of Fashion

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A Perfect Fit: How Lena "Lane" Bryant Changed the Shape of Fashion by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal Clarion Books (imprint of HarperCollins), 2022 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Shirley Reva Vernick Buy at Bookshop.org This lyrical picture book biography shows how Lena "Lane" Bryant founded the eponymous fashion brand that celebrates bodies of all shapes and sizes. A brilliant seamstress at the turn of the 20th century, Lena was struggling to make ends meet…until customers started requesting designs that wouldn't "squeeze or pinch" women with nonstandard shapes. Lena remembered something her grandfather had once told her: real success lies in helping others. So she got to work creating comfortable and stylish clothing in all sizes and styles, including maternity wear with "room to grow." That was when her business, inspired by the goal of providing accessible fashion, took off. In providing customers with the perfect fi

Review: Measuring a Year

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Measuring a Year: A Rosh Hashanah Story by Linda Elovitz Marshall, illustrated by Zara Gonz á lez Hoang Abrams Appleseed (imprint of Abrams Books), 2022 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Rachel J. Fremmer   Buy at Bookshop.org The concept of measuring a year by what you’ve achieved, rather than the time spent, is not a new one (think “Seasons of Love” from the musical Rent, for starters). But writer Linda Elovitz Marshall and illustrator Zara González Hoang bring it down to a child-appropriate level, with, for example, illustrations of a parent measuring a child on a growth chart and a kid learning to ride a bike. While the subtitle and endpapers reference Rosh Hashanah, the holiday of Rosh Hashanah itself doesn’t make a reappearance until the end of the book. There are, however, other references to Jewish holidays and Jewish family life throughout the illustrations. I appreciated the subtle yet timeless references to the pandemic: a child getting a shot is described as “super brave”

Review: The Most Annoying Aliens Ever

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The Most Annoying Aliens Ever by Leah Sokol, illustrated by Teresa Ramos Apples & Honey Press (imprint of Behrman House), 2022 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Shirley Reva Vernick Buy at Bookshop.org One Shabbat morning, friends Sara and Talya discover that their younger brothers have turned into aliens. At least, it seems that way, since the boys' annoying behavior has reached out-of-this-world proportions. Over the course of the next week, the girls discover that their anger is what feeds the aliens' annoying antics. So, instead of getting frustrated, they either ignore the aliens or show them kindness – offering compliments, sharing their toys, or spending time with them. Like magic, this kindness eradicates the aliens, and the girls get their (not totally annoyance-free) little brothers back. Told with humor and insight, this book will enchant young readers, especially those with siblings. The bold illustrations enhance the hilarity, as the green-skinned, tentacled al

Review: Attack of the Black Rectangles

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Attack of the Black Rectangles by Amy Sarig King Scholastic, 2022 Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Heidi Rabinowitz Buy at Bookshop.org Mac's sixth-grade reading group discovers that their school copies of the Holocaust classic The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen have been censored with black rectangles. The blacked-out the passages, "hands over her breasts" and "She motioned toward her own undeveloped chest," take place in a harsh concentration camp setting and are in no way sexual, but their teacher is uncomfortable with these references to human body parts and thinks she is protecting the twelve-year-old readers with this action. Mac and his friends resent being dictated to, lied to, and not being taken seriously by the adults around them. They organize and bring the matter to the school board, helping their uptight town wake up: "Until we started our protests, people thought they had to follow rules no matter how weird the rules were. We reminded

Review: The Incredible Shrinking Lunchroom

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The Incredible Shrinking Lunchroom by Michal Babay, illustrated by Paula Cohen Charlesbridge, 2022 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Shirley Reva Vernick Buy at Bookshop.org The Incredible Shrinking Lunchroom is a hilarious contemporary retelling of the Yiddish folktale popularized by Margot Zemach’s 1977 book, It Could Always Be Worse . In Babay’s story, the students at Parley Elementary tell their principal, Mrs. Mensch, that the cafeteria is too noisy and crowded. Mrs. M. responds by moving more and more things into the lunchroom – things like science projects, classroom pets, and school sports teams. When the situation reaches peak chaos, the principal finally returns the cafeteria to its original state. The students are now thrilled with their suddenly roomy and quiet lunchroom. The end note summarizes the original Yiddish folktale and explains the story's importance to the author. The Incredible Shrinking Lunchroom is a warm, smart, and funny demonstration of the importance

Review: Strangers in Jerusalem

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Strangers in Jerusalem by Kerry Olitzky & Inas Younis, illustrated by Maryana Kachmar Brandylane Publishers, 2022 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Shanna Silva Buy at Bookshop.org Strangers in Jerusalem is, at its core, a book about kindness and embracing people who are different from oneself. Three girls, strangers at first, help each other locate holy sites in Jerusalem. Each has been asked to visit a house of worship that is not her own: Muslim Leila visits a church for a Christian friend, Jewish Rachel visits a mosque to give charity on behalf of a Muslim neighbor, and Muslim Asma visits the Western Wall to place a note for a Jewish friend. Differing backgrounds are no barrier to friendship here, as kindness and helpfulness bond the girls in friendship. The story shows an idealized and hopeful world of peaceful co-existence, where commonalities are more important than differences. The innocence of the children, who are naïve to the frictions between religious groups in Israel,

Review: The Brass Charm

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The Brass Charm by Monique Polak, illustrated by Marie LaFrance Scholastic Canada, 2022 Category: Picture Books  Reviewer: Cynthia Levinson Buy at Amazon.ca   The Brass Charm is a Holocaust story with an endearing twist. It does not take place during the Second World War, but in the current day. After a storm blows the roof off Tali's house, she goes to stay with Oma, her Holocaust survivor grandmother. Tali is sad about the loss of her home, her bed, and her books, but Oma gently lets her know that people have survived much worse. She explains that kindness and generosity make hard times easier, and shares her own story and the brass monkey man charm given to her by a fellow prisoner in Terezin on her birthday many years ago. This story gives Tali the courage to reach out to a lonely neighboring child and make friends. Using storm metaphors and realistic details, the story is based on true events. In the backmatter, the author briefly explains the Holocaust and that her mother

Review: Apples, Apples, All Year Round: A Year of Jewish Holidays

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Apples, Apples, All Year Round: A Year of Jewish Holidays by Barbara Bietz & June Sobel, illustrated by Ruth Waters Apples & Honey Press (imprint of Behrman House), 2022 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Suzanne Grossman Buy at Bookshop.org Apples join the joy of Jewish holiday celebrations in this rollicking, perfectly rhymed journey through the Jewish year. Traditional apple treats include apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah, apple decorations for the Sukkah, applesauce to accompany Hanukkah latkes, apples in the Passover charoset and more, making this a book to share all year long. The artwork is bright and cheery, with lots of holiday symbols. Lively animal characters celebrating the special days will have young readers turning pages and coming back for more. Yum! This book is eligible for Sydney Taylor Book Award consideration. The book has literary merit with its spot-on, smoothly rhyming, memorable text. Bright, lively digital art with adorable animal characters and bold

Review: Chunky Goes to Camp

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Chunky Goes to Camp by Yehudi Mercado Katherine Tegan Books (imprint of HarperCollins), 2022 Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Rebecca Klempner Buy at Bookshop.org In Chunky Goes to Camp , a semi-autobiographical graphic novel, we follow Hudi, the protagonist of 2021’s Chunky . Hudi is a junior high student with a flair for comedy. Unfortunately, Vice Principal Hyatt doesn't share Hudi's sense of humor. Hyatt decides that since Hudi is Mexican and doesn't "follow the rules," Hudi must be a hoodlum. He accuses Hudi of one “offense” after another and sends Hudi to detention over and over. While we laugh at the absurdity, we also feel outrage against the punitive school discipline depicted. When the school year ends, Hudi’s parents send him to Camp Green, a Jewish sleepaway camp, to prevent more trouble (although they agree that the administration treated him unfairly). Before Hudi even reaches camp, things get Jewy. There are four friends all named Josh. Camp events