An enigmatic parable that fails to bloom.



Co-authors Levine (New Testament and Jewish Studies/ Vanderbilt Univ.) and Sasso, a rabbi, turn their accumulated theological training to adapting a biblical parable of Jesus into a picture book.

Based on the short parable that appears in the three Synoptic Gospels, the picture book presents the story of a small seed growing into a large tree. Opening with two children preparing to plant a mustard seed in winter-brown ground, soft colored-pencil illustrations show just how small and seemingly useless a mustard seed is until it is planted. Then, away from prying eyes, the seed sends out roots, sprouts, and grows beyond the usual botanical limits of a mustard plant, into “a humongous tree.” Through most of the book, this literal depiction of a uniquely large mustard plant and how the community interacts with it and uses it is the focus, making a turn toward the familiar comparison of the mustard seed to the kingdom of God near the end feel as though it comes out of left field. Even the crowds who heard the original telling of the parable in ancient Palestine, who had more context, may well have found this teaching bemusing. Contemporary children, lacking that context, will find it even more so. While Meganck’s illustrations of a diverse community surrounding the tree are endearing, the book fails to engage as either a celebration of botany or a picture of a heavenly kingdom come to Earth.

An enigmatic parable that fails to bloom. (Picture book/religion. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-664-26275-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flyaway Books

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Girls will hear the answer to the titular question.


Teaching our daughters how to love themselves is the first step toward the next generation’s owning its power.

It’s heady stuff for a picture book, but it’s never too soon for a woman—even a little woman—to know her worth. Denhollander (the first of sex offender Larry Nassar’s abuse victims to speak out) presents a poetic discourse that resonates beyond its young intended audience. Her simple rhyming couplets speak to the power of image and the messages that shape how we become who we are. The eloquence comes not from the words or phrasing as much as the message as well as the passion. Denhollander, an attorney, a mother, and a former gymnast–turned-coach for a time, delivers stanzas infused with sweet sentimentality as well as fiery fierceness. New artist Huff provides lovely, expressive illustrations depicting girls of many racial presentations in various stages of self-discovery and acceptance. The figures are smiling and cartoonlike, with oversized, round heads and sturdy bodies—though none could be called fat, none exhibits twiglike proportions. Denhollander’s book is unapologetically Christian in approach, with more than one reference to “Him” or a creation by a greater power. With sincerity helping to mitigate occasionally artless text, this is a worthwhile message for young girls who, in an age of shrinking women’s rights, need all the encouragement possible to find their voices and love themselves.

Girls will hear the answer to the titular question. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4964-4168-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tyndale House

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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This will serve well in both religious and nonreligious settings for fall curriculum support.


The annual harvest from farm to table is explored with a religious perspective, focusing on Christian harvest traditions and the Jewish celebration of Sukkot.

Crisp color photography highlights children in scenes of farming and the harvesting of fruits and vegetables. The book features several instructive points about the variety of produce available, the harvest concept and sharing. Finally, it covers two different yet corresponding religious ways to observe the harvest and thank God. Church-based harvest festivals are illustrated by the decorating of a church with various breads, wheat stalks and baskets of food. Sukkot is shown with the building and decorating of a Sukkah and how this symbol of a shelter or hut relates to the ancient Jewish celebration. An informative and eye-catching design on glossy paper offers a large, multicolored print, the majority of text blocks in black against soft pale backgrounds, with key words in bold blue; these are repeated in a vocabulary border at the bottom of each page. The text is largely framed in questions, encouraging personal response and discussion. The simplicity and functionality of the book’s premise is enhanced with an addendum of teaching suggestions for specific pages and more detailed background information about the concepts presented.

This will serve well in both religious and nonreligious settings for fall curriculum support. (websites, index) (Informational picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-237-54373-0

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Evans/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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