Welcoming guests and even strangers to the dinner table is part of the Shabbat ritual, and it’s celebrated nicely here.

THE SUNDOWN KID

A SOUTHWESTERN SHABBAT

After moving to a town in the Old West, a young, white Jewish boy and his parents find celebrating Shabbat to be a lonely tradition.

On the western frontier, Papa spends the week with his boy making his homestead ready for planting while Mama takes care of their adobe house. But on Friday, regular work is suspended to make ready for Shabbat. After lighting candles and blessing wine and challah, the family feels unsettled. “Too much soup,” says Mama. “Not enough family.” In the city back East there were always aunts, uncles, and cousins with whom to share a Shabbat meal. Reminiscing about the large, weekly family gatherings gives the boy the idea to invite their new friends and neighbors for some good old-fashioned chicken soup, thus making the next Shabbat a more joyous, communal affair. Bietz uses an oral storytelling style with repetitive phrasing to introduce the arrival of Shabbat, enfolding both details of the hardworking lives of homesteaders with Jewish cultural details. Clean lines and muted colors on a textured background illustrate a late-19th-century Western landscape and its mostly white residents (blacksmith Ricardo and his nephew, both Latino, are notable exceptions). Framed portrait drawings in gray tones portray flashbacks of the family’s much-missed relatives and are superimposed collage-style on several scenes.

Welcoming guests and even strangers to the dinner table is part of the Shabbat ritual, and it’s celebrated nicely here. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-939160-94-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: August House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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Comfy and cozy, with nary a meanie in sight.

GRANDUDE'S GREEN SUBMARINE

Following Hey, Grandude (2019), more jolly fun as the title character squires his four young “Chillers” aboard a green sub (where does Sir Paul get his ideas?) to catch up with his partner in adventure: Nandude!

Casting about for something to do on a sweltering day, the multiracial quartet eagerly follows their grizzled White gramps down to an underground chamber where a viridian vessel awaits to take them soaring through the sky to a distant land. There, Grandude’s old friend Ravi plays a tune of Nandude’s that accompanies them after they leave him. It leads them under the sea to an octopus’s garden and a briefly scary tangle with the ink-spraying giant. The monster’s set to dancing, though, as Nandude floats up in her own accordion-shaped ship to carry everyone home for tea, biscuits, and bed in a swirl of notes. Aside maybe from the odd spray of shiny stars here and there, Durst steers clear of sight gags and direct visual references to the film or music in her cheery cartoon scenes. Both she and the text do kit Ravi out, appropriately, with a sitar, but there’s no 1960s-style psychedelia to be seen. Nostalgic adults may be disappointed to see that even the submarine bears no resemblance to the iconic vessel of the film but instead just looks like a plush, smiling toy whale, eyes and all. Children, of course, won’t care. That this book does not try to trade (heavily) on its antecedents makes it a refreshing change from so many other celebrity titles. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Comfy and cozy, with nary a meanie in sight. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-37243-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Together, Díaz and Espinosa present an imaginative, purposeful narrative about identity and belonging.

ISLANDBORN

A young girl’s homework assignment unravels the history and beauty of her homeland.

Lola and her classmates are assigned to draw pictures of their respective origin countries. With excitement, the others begin sharing what they will draw: pyramids, a long canal, a mongoose. Lola, concerned, doesn’t remember what life was like on the Island, and so she recruits her whole neighborhood. There is Leticia, her cousin; Mrs. Bernard, who sells the crispy empanadas; Leticia’s brother Jhonathan, a barber; her mother; her abuela; and their gruff building superintendent. With every description, Lola learns something new: about the Island’s large bats, mangoes, colorful people, music and dancing everywhere, the beaches and sea life, and devastating hurricanes. Espinosa’s fine, vibrant illustrations dress the story in colorful cacophony and play with texture (hair especially) as Lola conjures images of her homeland. While the story does not identify the Island by name, readers familiar with Díaz’s repertoire will instantly identify it as the Dominican Republic, a conclusion that’s supported when the super recalls the Monster (Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo), and sharp-eyed readers should look at the magnets on Lola’s refrigerator. Lola, Teresa Mlawer’s translation, is just as poignant as the original.

Together, Díaz and Espinosa present an imaginative, purposeful narrative about identity and belonging. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2986-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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