Posts

Review: The Honeys

Image
The Honeys by Ryan LaSala PUSH (imprint of Scholastic), 2022 Category: Young Adult Reviewer: Stacey Rattner Buy at Bookshop.org Right from the start, you know that the elite sleepaway camp in this story, Aspen Conservancy Summer Academy, is not like any camp you may be familiar with. It’s no Ramah or Tel Yehudah, that’s for sure. Mars’s twin sister, Caroline, is deep in the heart of the culture of Aspen, especially her cabin and friends, the oldest girls in camp, called The Honeys. These are her people. This, of course, is relatable to anyone who has attended or sends their own kids to camp. But when Caroline runs away from camp and in an unfortunate series of events, dies suddenly at home, genderfluid Mars, who never completely felt comfortable at camp, makes the decision to return to Aspen and find out what really happened . Aspen is filled with history and connections. Some we learn right away; others a bit later. Who can Mars trust? Who is friend? Who is foe? While trying to figure

Review: Ballad & Dagger (An Outlaw Saints Novel)

Image
Ballad & Dagger (An Outlaw Saints Novel) by Daniel José Older Rick Riordan Presents (imprint of Disney Publishing), 2022 Category: Young Adult Reviewer: Aleah Gornbein   Buy at Bookshop.org As readers of Jewish books, we are intimately familiar with the theme of diaspora. So jumping into Daniel José Older’s Ballad & Dagger where the focus is on the close-knit community of Little Madrigal is like settling into a well-worn couch, no matter the magical elements at play. Sixteen years ago, the Carribean island of San Madrigal sank, and the pirates, Cuban Santeros, and Sephardic Jews who lived there escaped to Brooklyn to keep their blended culture alive. Mateo Matisse, our protagonist, is now a regular teenager who loves music and lives with his Tía Lucia while his parents travel for work. Not one for the spotlight, he just wants to get the attention of Gerval, a popular local musician, at the annual celebration, the Grand Fete. However, when Mateo witnesses the rabbi’s daughter c

Review: We Worship Here: Jewish Synagogue

Image
We Worship Here: Jewish Synagogue by Angela Wood, illustrated by Emma Trithart Franklin Watts, 2022 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Stacy Nockowitz We Worship Here: Jewish Synagogue is a title in the We Worship Here series from Franklin Watts. It’s an odd little book. Coming in at 32 pages, it seems like a picture book meant for a very young audience, but the index in the back is not common in picture books. Perhaps it’s an easy reader, but much of the vocabulary and ideas in the book are on the sophisticated side for an early reader. I certainly wouldn’t call it a middle grade book. So, I’m not sure who the audience is for We Worship Here: Jewish Synagogue .    There is no indication that the building on the cover is a synagogue, other than a person in a tallit waving from the sidewalk in front of the building. It could just as easily be a mosque or Greek Orthodox church. Each spread addresses a different aspect of Jewish life in a synagogue, from the Ner Tamid to how Jews pray. Pe

Review: Start the Day

Image
Start the Day by Vicki L. Weber, illustrated by Shirley Ng-Benitez Apples & Honey (imprint of Behrman House), 2022 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Jeff Gottesfeld Buy at Bookshop.org The very best time for kids to learn nearly anything is when they are young. This is especially true when it comes to learning a second language. Vicki L. Weber's START THE DAY, with inviting illustrations by Shirley Ng-Benitez, puts this principle to work with the Hebrew phrase for "Good morning," *boker tov.* Her board book for the youngest children is part of a series from Apples & Honey Press that includes the havdalah-centered A NEW WEEK, SHABBAT SHALOM, and more. Weber's rhyming text is simple enough for any toddler to grasp -- "good morning all, it's time to rise / and rub the sleep from rested eyes" -- and uncommonly active. Each page will give the young person being read to the opportunity to do something. They can touch their noses, or wiggle their toes.

Review: The Counselors

Image
The Counselors by Jessica Goodman Razorbill (imprint of Penguin Random House), 2022 Category: Young Adult Reviewer: Meg Wiviott Buy at Bookshop.org Goldie Eastman can’t wait to return to Camp Alpine Lake, the only place she feels safe, loved, and at home. Her senior year was disastrous, filled with love and lies, and secrets she’s kept from her best friends Ava and Imogen. But will this year’s summer be the same as those in the past, as Goldie, Ava, and Imo work as counselors, or will the secrets she’s kept ruin their friendships forever? Jessica Goodman’s young adult novel, The Counselors , brings to life the joys, comradery, and appeal of summer camp. Until, that is, a local boy is found dead on the grounds of Camp Alpine. Goldie knows this is no accident and knows she must find the truth behind the murder. What she uncovers is that the truth can be ugly—and that she’s not the only one keeping secrets. The Counselors is a quintessential story about summer camp (or as I imagine summe

Review: Sally Opened Doors

Image
  Sally Opened Doors: The Story of the First Woman Rabbi by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, illustrated by Margeaux Lucas Apples & Honey (imprint of Behrman House), 2022 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Shanna Silver Buy at Bookshop.org   Sally Priesand was America’s first female ordained rabbi. This picture book biography is about her dream, realized through self-confidence and persistence. Young Sally fantasizes about being on the bimah and teaching Torah. In the 1970’s, women were claiming their places in the career world as pilots, doctors and lawyers. Growing up in this era, Sally visualized herself becoming a rabbi in the completely male-dominated field. She was undeterred by the nay-sayers and gatekeepers who couldn’t envision a female rabbi. By age 16, Sally used her admirable chutzpah to inquire about admission to the Hebrew Union College. When she finally received a response, it was neither encouraging nor welcoming. The art shows Sally nonchalantly tossing the letter into the ga

Review: Max Builds a Time Machine

Image
Max Builds a Time Machine (Torah Time Travel series) by Carl Harris Shuman, illustrated by C.B. Decker Apples & Honey Press (imprint of Behrman House), 2022 Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Sandy Wasserman Buy at Bookshop.org Max is creative, though a bit odd, and attends Jewish school. He likes to putter and build and has many questions about the Bible and Jewish history. Needing answers to some questions he has about Bible stories, he builds a time machine in his room and sets off to find answers. He wonders: Do angels have wings? Do they actually eat real food? He does know quite a bit already about Abraham and Sarah and the custom of inviting guests into their tent and he does recognize the three angels and Sarah and Abraham when he arrives. With his cardboard time machine and using 'Miri,' [AKA: Siri] his mother's old partially working cell phone, he goes back 2000 years. Author Carl Shuman throws delightful humor into every page, into every character's comment