A well-told Bible story of a strong, determined, persistent woman that will resonate with modern young readers.

ESTHER DIDN'T DREAM OF BEING QUEEN

An orphaned Jewish girl becomes the renowned Queen Esther.

Esther is living a quiet life in the care of her cousin Mordecai when the king orders “all pretty young women” to report to the palace to be considered as a new queen. For three years she manages to avoid submitting to the edict. Eventually forced to comply, and with a warning from Mordecai to keep her religion a secret, she finds herself among a crowd of women vying to be the king’s choice. She remains true to herself, surreptitiously keeping Shabbat and wearing her old clothes. The king chooses her, perhaps in part for her strength of character, which she continues to display as queen. The king’s adviser, Haman, the villain of the story, intends to attack all the Jews, and it is Esther’s courageous plan that saves her people. Of course a celebration follows, still enjoyed today as Purim. Esther narrates her own tale, speaking directly to readers in a conversational tone, vividly describing her emotions and reactions as events unfold. Throughout her tale she alludes to similarities with “Cinderella,” but she emphasizes that her story “is not a fairy tale.” Belloni’s brightly hued, highly detailed animation-inflected illustrations creatively depict biblical-era Middle Eastern setting and dress. All characters are appropriately light-brown–skinned with dark hair.

A well-told Bible story of a strong, determined, persistent woman that will resonate with modern young readers. (author’s note) (Picture book/religion. 7-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68115-561-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Apples & Honey Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A Christmas cozy, read straight or bit by bit through the season.

HOW WINSTON DELIVERED CHRISTMAS

Neither snow nor rain nor mountains of yummy cheese stay the carrier of a letter to Santa.

So carelessly does 8-year-old Oliver stuff his very late letter to Santa into the mailbox that it falls out behind his back—leaving Winston, a “small, grubby white mouse” with an outsized heart, determined to deliver it personally though he has no idea where to go. Smith presents Winston’s Christmas Eve trek in 24 minichapters, each assigned a December “day” and all closing with both twists or cliffhangers and instructions (mostly verbal, unfortunately) for one or more holiday-themed recipes or craft projects. Though he veers occasionally into preciosity (Winston “tried to ignore the grumbling, rumbling noises coming from his tummy”), he also infuses his holiday tale with worthy values. Occasional snowy scenes have an Edwardian look appropriate to the general tone, with a white default in place but a few dark-skinned figures in view. Less-crafty children will struggle with the scantly illustrated projects, which run from paper snowflakes to clothespin dolls and Christmas crackers with or without “snaps,” but lyrics to chestnuts like “The 12 Days of Christmas” (and “Jingle Bells,” which is not a Christmas song, but never mind) at the end invite everyone to sing along.

A Christmas cozy, read straight or bit by bit through the season. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68412-983-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Silver Dolphin

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Absurd and wacky but also fast-paced and good-humored. Ho, ho, HO! (Fantasy. 7-10)

HAPPY HOWLIDAYS

A MIDDLE SCHOOL STORY

From the Dog Diaries series , Vol. 2

Following series opener Dog Diaries (2018), Junior, a dog of huge enthusiasm but not much sense, is back for a second romp with his ever so tolerant owner, “Ruff.”

It’s time for the howlidays, including Fangsgiving and, of course, Critter-Mess-Day, the one that features the mysterious Saint Lick! Junior’s take on these events¾all of them new to him since he’s recently been adopted from the pet shelter—is pretty funny. The story consists nearly entirely of his lively encounters with novel holiday-related stuff and his doggy interpretation of what he discovers, quite likely to appeal to children’s funny bones. All of this silliness is presented in first-dog narration in diary format, in large, clear print on pages that overflow with rollicking illustrations that are perfectly matched to the text. There is little in the way of plot or character development, just a series of silly episodes climaxing in Junior’s extremely thorough booby-trapping of the entire house to fend off Saint Lick since he’s heard the jolly fellow leaves “presents” all over the world—and everyone knows what those are: poop! Although his efforts leave the house flooded, toilet paper strewn everywhere and an angry family, Junior is proud of his accomplishment: no “presents.” Ruff (actually Rafe) is Armenian. The tale concludes with a helpful glossary of Doglish terms and several pages of games and drawing instruction.

Absurd and wacky but also fast-paced and good-humored. Ho, ho, HO! (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-45618-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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