Showing posts from February, 2024

Review: The Tree of Life: How a Holocaust Sapling Inspired the World

The Tree of Life: How a Holocaust Sapling Inspired the Worl by Elisa Boxer, illustrated by Alianna Rozentsveig Rocky Pond Books (imprint of Penguin Random House), 2024 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Melissa Lasher Buy at The Tree of Life tells the story of the Holocaust by focusing on how children in one ghetto nurtured a single smuggled-in sapling. Its message is as essential today as it was when the tree took root almost eighty years ago: hope triumphs over fear. In the ghetto, a teacher risks her life by simply teaching—and by asking a prisoner to smuggle in a sapling for Tu BiShvat. The prisoner, also risking his life, hides the sapling in his boot. The children are scared and thirsty—and yet each shares a few drops of their daily water allotment with the tree, which grows and thrives, bringing hope to the entire ghetto. A third-person narrator creates distance between young readers and the fearful children in the story. The streamlined, soothing prose buffers the

Review: Remembering Rosalind Franklin

Remembering Rosalind Franklin: Rosalind Franklin and the Discovery of the Double Helix Structure of DNA by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Gretchen Ellen Powers Christy Ottaviano Books (imprint of Little Brown), 2024 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Jacqueline Jules Buy at Remembering Rosalind Franklin begins with an author’s note warning that this story does not have a happy ending. The preface goes on to explain that sometimes people can do extraordinary things and “never even find out they made a difference.” With this preparation, the reader is ready to understand that those who do the groundwork for important scientific achievements deserve to be remembered, too.  Rosalind Franklin was born in 1920 into a large Jewish family living in London, England. She enjoyed beach holidays at her grandparents’ country home where she first saw a darkroom and learned how photographs were developed. Though she lived in a time when most girls were not encouraged to pursue academics

Review: A Boy From Baghdad

A Boy from Baghdad by Miriam Halahmy Green Bean Books, 2024 Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Sarah Sassoon Buy from A Boy from Baghdad is a heartwarming, authentic story about an Iraqi Jewish boy, Salman Shasha, who is suddenly uprooted with his family and the entire Iraqi Jewish community when they move from Baghdad to Israel. Not only does Salman’s family lose everything with the move to the refugee tent camps in Israel (home, language, identity), but Salman also loses his dream to be an Olympic gold swimmer for Iraq. The Iraqi Jewish world is little known and Halahmy paints a vibrant, colorful picture of the smells and sounds of the souq, the beautiful, wide Tigris River which is Salman’s swimming haunt, and the close-knit family and communal everyday life and traditions, such as the lighting of seven homemade wicks in sesame oil for Shabbat. She also captures the tensions for the Jews with the rising antisemitism and anti-Zionism which culminated in more than 120,000

Review: On Friday Afternoon: A Shabbat Celebration

On Friday Afternoon: A Shabbat Celebration by Michal Babay, illustrated by Menahem Halberstadt Charlesbridge, 2024 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Ann Koffsky Buy at With On Friday Afternoon , author Michal Babay and illustrator Menachem Halbertstadt have given us an upbeat and cheerful portrait of a family getting ready for Shabbat—specifically, Friday night dinner. The main characters are a young girl, Leelee, and her dog Pickles. They giggle and race through the house making messes, cleaning up those messes (because Shabbat is coming) and then making still more chaos. Each encounter leads fluidly into the next: when they discover change under the couch, that leads to making a tzedkah box; finding a trombone while cleaning the bedroom leads them to marching in a musical parade. The structure reminded me of the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series-- in the best of ways. Halbertstadt’s illustrations are exuberant and joyful. Leelee’s slightly rumpled hair gives off oodl

Year #5 of The Sydney Taylor Shmooze

As we begin another year of reviewing juvenile books of Jewish content, we want to take a moment to reflect on why we do this work.  We know that representation is important in our diverse society. As Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop helped us understand, window books break down stereotypes and mirror books provide validation and support. With antisemitism on the rise, it's more important than ever that Jewish readers have books that remind us of our rich heritage, beautiful traditions, and culture that developed in diverse areas and countries, and that non-Jewish readers have books that demystify Judaism, educate about the Jewish experience, and build empathy and respect for our common humanity. Some of the books reviewed on this blog are great candidates for the Sydney Taylor Book Award. Others are not, but may still offer important Jewish representation. We hope our critiques will lead readers to better books, provide publishers with constructive feedback, and aid reviewers in identifying

Real Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour: 2024

The 2024 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour features interviews with the gold and silver medal-winning authors and illustrators. Links to all participating blogs can be found on the Association of Jewish Libraries website at , as well as below. Enjoy! BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2024 Richard Ho and Lynn Scurfield, author and illustrator of Two New Years Sydney Taylor Book Award in the Picture Book Category at 100 Scope Notes at School Library Journal   Elissa Brent Weissman and Omer Hoffmann, author and illustrator of Hanukkah Upside Down Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Picture Book Category at The Pragmatic Mom Tziporah Cohen and Yaara Eshet, author and illustrator of Afikomen Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Picture Book Category at Out of the Box at The Horn Book Elisa Boxer and Amy June Bates, author and illustrator of Hidden Hope Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Picture Book Category at Picture Books Help Kids Soar TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2024 Susan