Review: Mazal Bueno!

Mazal Bueno!

by Sarah Aroeste, illustrated by Taia Morley

Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group), 2023

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Bridget Hodder

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This lively board book introduces little ones to a Sephardic family and their special way of celebrating blessings in their everyday lives. The more common Jewish phrase "Mazal Tov" becomes the Sephardic Ladino "Mazal Bueno!" in this appealing tiny tale.

As a Sephardic author, Aroeste is able to incorporate a casual, genuine Sephardic perspective into this sweet and postitive slice of life. The book focuses on the small achievements of a small person-- a baby learning (among other things) to walk and speak, in the loving setting of parents who rejoice in every little milestone of baby's life.

The Jewish representation in MAZAL BUENO is implicit rather than explicit, with an aptly brief note on the back cover of the book explaining context. The warm brown skin tones and curly hair of the characters in the illustrations communicate the concept of Sephardic Jewish diversity without the need for words.

When read aloud, as surely every board book must be, this fun little book really comes alive. Particularly if given a brief introduction comparing the expression "Mazal Bueno" to "Mazal Tov" kids love first saying, and then shouting out "Mazal Bueno" with the turning of every chunky cardboard page. Parents, teachers, preschools and caregivers can add this book with confidence to daily or nightly storytimes. You'll be surprised at how quickly young ones will learn the phrase--and so will you!

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Reviewer Bridget Hodder is the Middle Grade author of THE RAT PRINCE (Macmillan/ Farrar, Straus & Giroux) and co-author of THE BUTTON BOX (Lerner Books/ Kar-Ben) with Sydney Taylor Silver Medalist Fawzia Gilani, which has earned a Kirkus star. Her first picture book, THE PROMISE, a tale of enduring friendship and loss in 20th century Morocco, is also co-authored with Fawzia Gilani, and will be released from Lerner/ Kar-Ben in August 2023.