Books by Jane Breskin Zalben

A MOON FOR MOE AND MO by Jane Breskin Zalben
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 7, 2018

"A gem. (Picture book. 3-7)"
The tale of a nascent friendship between Moses Feldman and Mohammed Hassan, two kids from Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, New York; they have different backgrounds…yet so many things in common. Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 21, 2012

"The joyful clarity of both vision and execution thrills. (notes on 22 artists referenced) (Picture book. 3-7)"
Who needs a cookie? Give a mouse a paintbrush! Read full book review >
FOUR SEASONS by Jane Breskin Zalben
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 8, 2011

Approaching her 13th birthday, seventh grader Allegra Katz begins to wonder if she really wants to spend her life playing the piano. How can she tell what she really wants, and how can she disappoint her parents and her teacher? From an unsure spring to a disastrous summer music camp and a breakdown in the fall through gradual recovery during the winter, Zalben charts a year in the life of a musically and mathematically precocious New Yorker in four chapters, each opening with an appropriate quotation from a Vivaldi sonnet. A fascinating and complex character, Ally puts demands on herself nearly as impossible as those of her unforgiving teacher. She lives in a world full of people under pressure: Her parents are professional musicians, everyone in her private school is "gifted" and, at Juilliard, she sees students much younger with burgeoning professional careers. Only her best friend Opal and first boyfriend Bradley model alternate paths. A surfeit of descriptive detail provides some relief from Ally's intensity and may well attract readers curious about her cosmopolitan world. (Fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >
BABY SHOWER by Jane Breskin Zalben
ANIMALS
Released: March 30, 2010

Zoe wants a pet more than anything. She even dreams about it, and on the night before her aunt's baby shower, she dreams of animal babies. "Lambs [loll] on lawns," baby "[r]abbits [rain] on rooftops" when the weatherman reports "a downpour of babies." Her gift to Aunt Ellie is a picture of that baby-animal shower. When she and her mom leave the baby shower, a spark of thunder and lightning and—lo!—a wet little puppy appears, the answer to Zoe's dreams. She names him Baby, and when Aunt Ellie has her twins—a boy and a girl—Zoe introduces her puppy: "I have a new baby, too!" Adorable pictures with winsome prints and patterns and lots of white space bring out the lovingly detailed figures of children, animals and adults. An engaging and ever-so-slightly surreal treatment of an age-old childhood wish. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
BRENDA BERMAN, WEDDING EXPERT by Jane Breskin Zalben
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 18, 2009

When her Uncle Harry becomes engaged, Brenda reluctantly adjusts to the concept of a new aunt and cousin. Although Aunt Florrie's niece, Lucy, happens to be the same age as Brenda, the girls are polar opposites. While Brenda dreams of a gold lamé flower-girl dress, Lucy desires nothing more than to be swathed in lavender taffeta. The duo's arch rivalry is derailed by Harry and Florrie's surprise elopement, which unites Brenda and Lucy in mutual dismay over missing their big bridal debut. Zalben's tale, divided into five chapters, conveys the warmth and zaniness that can make families simultaneously maddening and wonderful. Brenda's unique personality, a beguiling blend of sass and vulnerability, is reflected in Chess's watercolor illustrations. The distinctive sketches skillfully illuminate Brenda's spunk and individuality. Brenda's endeavors to reconcile her hopes with reality tell a tale of acceptance that will help young readers struggling with their own life transitions. (Fiction. 6-9)Read full book review >
LIGHT by Jane Breskin Zalben
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

According to an old Kabbalah legend, when God made the world, "he wanted to paint everything with a special kind of light so the world would shine with goodness." Too powerful to be stored in a jar, the light burst forth, shattering into shards all over the globe. To make the world whole and peaceful again, God created people to help search for and find each broken piece of light. This rendition of an old midrash creation story is filled with a beautiful and simple message of hope. A peaceful coexistence is still possible for a world that is torn apart by war, hunger and blind hatred, if people look for the spark of light in everyone and everything. As in her biographical collection, Paths to Peace (2006), Zalben departs from her usual artistic style with this symbolic and elegant interpretation of the Judaic practice of "Tikun Olam," or healing of the world. Using a combined media of paints, pencil and various household and other objects such as pieces of sand, seaweed, kasha grains, flower petals and cleansers, Zalben matches her well-crafted words with detailed and delicate collages of naturalistic plant and animal scenes and a multicultural group of dancing, joyful children surrounded by the glitter and glow of all those shards of light. Special and inspiring for all cultures. (Picture book. 5-12)Read full book review >
LEAP by Jane Breskin Zalben
CHILDREN'S
Released: Jan. 9, 2007

Long-time picture-book author Zalben jumps back into novels with a sensitive coming-of-age story, told in alternating voices, of Krista and Daniel's first year in middle school. Daniel, a former champion swimmer, must learn to walk again after an allergic reaction to general anesthesia left him partially paralyzed; Krista must sort through her feelings for Daniel, her former inseparable elementary-school best friend, and Bobby, her first crush. Their observation and care for a science-class tadpole parallels their own successful changes and "leaps" into life, as Daniel confronts his disability with determination and accepts his mother's separation from the family. Krista realizes that there's more to see beneath everyone's façade, and the two make choices that will shape their character forever. While a few thoughts are beyond Krista and Daniel's age and experience (e.g., "Yeah, you make Chevy Chase and his falling act on the old SNL look like nothing"), Zalben understands a 'tween's range of emotions and that their friendships and first kisses are as important as solving the world's problems. (Fiction. 10-13)Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY
Released: March 1, 2006

The grandiloquent subtitle captures the heavily earnest tone of this artist's tribute to 16 modern men and women who might—broadly, in several cases—be characterized as peacemakers. Most of Zalben's choices are familiar ones, from Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Einstein to Anne Frank, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Teresa, but the final three—Kikuyu conservation activist Wangari Maathai, Burmese Nobelist and political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi and Princess Diana—do give the roster a personal tilt. She profiles each with a page of basic biographical facts and quick looks at significant activities or achievements, adding a pithy quote from each and also an evocatively designed border and a strong, semi-abstract collage illustration. Closing with notes on the art, plus generous lists of further sources of information, this might not light fires under many readers, but it supports the author's theme that "one person can make a difference." (Collective biography. 10-12)Read full book review >
HEY, MAMA GOOSE by Jane Breskin Zalben
ANIMALS
Released: Feb. 1, 2005

Mother Goose is the real-estate agent who rearranges the traditional settings of her famed tales. When an unhappy and tired-of-being-crowded Old Woman approaches her, Mother Goose suggests a move from her shoe to the roomier home of Snow White. Each fairy tale character has a reason for finding the grass greener on the other side, and before too long, they have all relocated. But when the Old Woman peeks out her door and spies the porridge stand the three bears have established in her old abode, she realizes how nice her shoe house really was. And with a shout from her ("It's time to go back!"), they all return to their homes and wonder why they ever left. Zalben's rhyming couplets set the perfect rhythm, while Chollat's brightly colored cartoon illustrations will tickle funny bones. Children will enjoy searching out their favorite characters in their new settings, and adults will chuckle at the visual elements placed just for them. (Picture book. 2-7)Read full book review >
BABY BABKA, THE GORGEOUS GENIUS by Jane Breskin Zalben
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 20, 2004

Beryl knows she will love, love, love her new baby sister, certain to be as sweet as a chocolate babka. But when her father calls her and her little brother Sam from the hospital and happily shouts "It's a boy!" she faces her worst nightmare: "Two baby brothers. Double trouble." This funny, heartwarming early chapter book about embracing (and rejecting) a new baby in the house has shades of Kevin Henkes's Julius, the Baby of the World and a charm all its own. As Beryl concocts a strategy to make baby Zachary disappear, Uncle Morty conjures some tricks of his own to help his niece and nephew accept the small intruder as a member of the family, a long line of "gorgeous genius" babies. In the end, Beryl decides she doesn't want to make baby Zach disappear after all. Chess's soft, rounded, dePaola-style illustrations are as warm, comical, and appealing as the story. A detailed Eastern European recipe for chocolate babka tops off an already enticing offering for the sibling-challenged. (Illustrated fiction. 6-9)Read full book review >
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 1, 2004

Perfect for pre- or post-school lunch reading, this hilariously urbane collaboration offers a decidedly unappetizing dining experience: leading off with "sloths and slugs / Sautéed in oil with crunchy bugs," finishing with "Bat-wing pudding, grub-chip ice, / Leech compote topped with lice," and offering in between such delights as Roach Flambé, Pest-o Baguettes—and a former diner who has complained just a bit too vociferously to hulking Charles the Chef. Reflecting the text's perfectly tuned mix of sophistication and silliness, the Zalbens place a cast of nonhuman diners and wait-staff made from torn paper and found materials against dim photos of an elegant old New Orleans eatery. It's all just so grand, and readers who've enjoyed Stephanie Calmenson's Dinner at the Panda Palace, illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott (1995), or the occasional Saturday Night at Hodge's Café, by Tim Egan (1994), will be lining up for reservations. (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
POETRY
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

Zalben (Pearl's Passover, 2002, etc.) has selected 19 short, meaningful prayers and poems for this beautifully illustrated volume intended to offer hope and stability in the face of the world's tragedies and instability. Some of the more familiar selections include the opening verses of Genesis, the famous prayer of St. Francis, and the Twenty-Third Psalm, while other pieces from around the world include prayers from Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, and Taoist sources. Zalben has thoughtfully included representations from African, Eskimo, and Native American traditions as well. Her mixed-media collage illustrations unite all the disparate prayers and poems into a satisfying whole, although each illustration, like each prayer or poem, is quite different. In an author's note, Zalben explains that she used art materials and inspiration from many cultures so that each illustration would reflect the particular prayer's source. Some of the collages are in subdued hues, others shine in vibrant jewel tones, and some use bright primary shades and the contrast of dark and light to support the title and theme. Elegant design elements include metallic gold type for the title on the cover and the initial capital of each prayer and coordinated endpapers with the words for "peace" in many languages. Recommended for most public library collections. (Nonfiction. 5+)Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Jan. 1, 2002

That adorable yet very human little lamb is back and getting ready for Passover. Pearl is not above sniping at her twin cousins, the "two terrors of Teaneck," but she is at bottom a very caring sister, daughter, and cousin. And an enthusiastic participant in the Passover rituals. From the search for chametz to the Seder meal (no leg of lamb on the menu) to the cries of "Next year in Jerusalem," Pearl and her family undertake a thorough examination of the joys, requirements, and meaning of Passover. Zalben's (Don't Go!, p. 950, etc.) sweet watercolor, gold-leaf, and colored-pencil renderings convey the warmth of this family of sheep, although a full-page illustration of Moses parting the Red Sea is a jarring stylistic departure from the rest of the illustrations. The text is interspersed with recipes for Passover dishes, including both an Ashkenazi and Sephardic recipe for haroset, as well as craft projects for making such items as a Seder plate, Miriam's timbrels, and a placemat of an interesting, although highly speculative, map of the route of the Exodus from Egypt. This quite comprehensive look at the Passover holiday also contains a list of the 15 steps of the Seder, words and music for the song portion, and a glossary of terms used in the text. It's an excellent and light-hearted resource for both parents and religious schools—and the kids will like it too. (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-8)Read full book review >
THE MAGIC MENORAH by Jane Breskin Zalben
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2001

Stanley, who has everything, is not looking forward to Chanukah. Too many noisy relatives, cousins who make a mess, and his usually happy Grandpa Abe is always sad on the holiday. Mother sends Stanley to the attic to get a box for Grandpa and the magic begins. The box contains a dusty old menorah and when Stanley polishes it, a genie, in the person of Mr. Fishel, appears. Fishel, an ancient man in a shabby overcoat and felt hat tastes mother's chicken soup and the other holiday dishes and when his belly is full, asks Stanley, "What's it going to be?" With that, Stanley gets the usual three wishes. His wish for fame gets him a puppy named Fame; his wish for fortune produces stacks of golden potato pancakes and a trip back in time to a poor village in Europe. Here, Stanley shares the food and learns why Grandpa Abe is sad at Chanukah. Stanley's last wish, to be with his whole family, ends things, as he understands now that he is indeed a fortunate boy. Filled with bits of Jewish lore and traditional humor this gentle tale will amuse readers as it extols the virtues of generosity, love, and family relationships. Diamond's small drawings add drama. A depiction of a single shoe and sock at the head of a page, for example, illustrates a boy's poverty and its historical context. This modern Aladdin story with its glossary of Yiddish words and pronunciations is a fine addition to the holiday bookshelf. (Fiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
DON’T GO! by Jane Breskin Zalben
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 18, 2001

The thrill of the first day at preschool and all its attendant worries (for parent and child) are addressed in this compassionate tale. When Daniel sets off, he experiences some trepidation about leaving his mother for a strange new environment. The title phrase soon becomes his mantra as he resolutely clings to his mom. However, with steady reassurance and few strategic comfort items from home, Daniel eventually joins the group. Shortly thereafter, he is able to bid a somber, but tearless, goodbye. A day of play and blossoming friendships leads Daniel to discover the more pleasant aspects of preschool. Zalben's (To Every Season, not reviewed, etc.) honesty and pragmatic tone will put young readers at ease. She addresses Daniel's emotional upheavals without an excess of fanfare, neatly blending his sadness and wariness with intriguing tidbits about preschool life and the prospect of new friends. Readers who do not ease into transitions smoothly will find encouragement in Daniel's dilemma and his resolution of it. Included at the end are a "Checklist for First Day at Preschool," a note from the editor called "Getting Ready for Preschool," and a cookie recipe. Zalben's bright watercolors feature a cast of appealingly anthropomorphic animals; Daniel's mother is a suit-clad, sneaker-wearing elephant, while his classmates are a hippo, cat, and pig. The juxtaposition of familiar animals with very human scenarios is at once comforting and comical. A terrific tale to take the sting out of first-day-of-school separation anxieties. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
UNFINISHED DREAMS by Jane Breskin Zalben
FICTION
Released: May 1, 1996

Jason dreams of becoming a violinist, a dream his beloved principal, Mr. Carr, is helping him to realize. When Mr. Carr starts missing school the rumors begin, and finally the truth comes out: Mr. Carr has AIDS and is spending his final days with relatives. When schoolmates begin echoing the intolerance they hear at home, Jason defends Mr. Carr, little imagining the devastating personal consequences. Zalben (Goldie's Purim, 1991, etc.) keeps sentimentality to a minimum; this is less a story about AIDS and death than it is a story of a decent, caring boy facing mindless hatred for the very first time. The tragedy is kept mostly offstage, and the most terrible, heartbreaking moment involves the destruction of an object instead of a deathbed scene. Although the event doesn't come as much of a surprise, few will remain unmoved, for Zalben's gift, in simple, unobtrusive writing, is to make readers feel what Jason feels. At the end, what they'll feel is hope. (Fiction. 10+) Read full book review >
INNER CHIMES by Bobbye S. Goldstein
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 7, 1992

Twenty pleasant poems about writing and enjoying poetry, mostly from standbys like X. J. Kennedy, Nikki Giovanni, Eleanor Farjeon, etc., and none more than a page long. The title comes from Eve Merriam: ``It doesn't always have to rhyme,/but there's the repeat of a beat, somewhere/an inner chime...'' Format is clean and bright, with decorative color illustrations on almost every page; on close examination, much of Zalben's art is clumsy- -she has an odd fondness for awkwardly congealed waves—but the general effect is cozy and appealing. Not essential, but a good contribution to the poetry unit. (Poetry. 6-10) Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1976

Ironically, whereas Yolen takes time off from her self-consciously exquisite fairy tales for the sort of precious but diminutive bauble you'd associate with Zalben, the illustrator suits her style to Yolen's usual elegance. Though it looks longer, the text is mainly a series of ten couplets—from "One little mouse in great distress/ Looks all over for a floor-length dress" to "Ten little porcupines set up a racket,/ As they fight for the velvet evening jacket"—in which various small creatures search, sort, clamor and wail for specific items of clothing to wear to the butterfly ball for which a winged little elfin figure delivers invitations. But as each new set of animals is introduced all the previous lines are reiterated, and Yolen adds two final lines bringing them all to their destination: "Knock knock. . . Who's come to call?/WE HAVE! We've all come to the Butterfly Ball." Zalben's delicate fine line animals scurry in preparation—and cavort on arrival—within, amidst and upon rainbow colored swirls, patterened numerals and sheer decoration. Her watercolors do clothe the whole enterprise in finery well suited to such an occasion; the question is whether Yolen offers enough entertainment to justify the fancy dress. Read full book review >