ON PURIM

This is a sprightly overview from Fishman (On Passover, 1997), who uses a young girl’s preparations as the vehicle for a recounting of the Purim story. The full cast of characters is present—Queen Esther and King Ahasuerus, Mordecai and Haman—for a lesson in how Mordecai and Esther’s acts of courage turned the wastrel Ahasuerus into a decent king and saved the Jews from Haman’s wrath. Fishman smoothly includes a handful of Hebrew words in the text—hamantashen, shalach manot, and tzedakah—and makes Haman emerge in all his evilness, with prompts for stomping, hooting, and yelling at the mention of his name. In the end, Fishman explains how God’s presence can be detected in the mettle of Mordecai and Esther, in their willingness to do the right thing at a potentially dire cost. Their example also universalizes the tale, providing transcendent acts of personal courage. Hall’s pastel-pretty illustrations beguilingly serve to transmit the story and give it a suitably cozy atmosphere. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-689-82392-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1999

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THE NIGHT OF LAS POSADAS

A wondrous occurrence, an ancient tradition, and an elderly nun’s abiding faith are the basis of this moving Chirstmas tale from dePaola (26 Fairmount Avenue, p. 629, etc.). Sister Angie is overjoyed when her niece Lupe and her husband are selected to play Mary and Joseph—here, Maria and José—for Las Posadas, the reenactment of the journey into Bethlehem. When Sister Angie becomes ill and Lupe and Roberto become stranded in a heavy snowstorm, it seems as if the celebration will be delayed. However, a couple arrives just in time to take the place of the missing players. The whole village participates in the procession, from the singers who follow Mary and Joseph, to the “devils” who attempt to prevent the weary travelers from finding lodging. After several rebuffs, the couple arrives at the gates of the courtyard; these open and the entire assembly enters to celebrate. When Lupe and Roberto finally show up, the other couple is nowhere to be found. The story takes a supernatural twist when Sister Angie discovers that the figures in the church’s manger scene have come to life, temporarily, for the procession. The mysteries and miracles of the season are kept at bay; this simple narrative spells everything out, resulting in a primer on the tradition. Richly hued, luminescent illustrations radiate from the pages; an introduction and author’s note provide additional information. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23400-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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GINGERBREAD BABY

In a snowbound Swiss village, Matti figures it’s a good day to make a gingerbread man. He and his mother mix a batch of gingerbread and tuck it in the oven, but Matti is too impatient to wait ten minutes without peeking. When he opens the door, out pops a gingerbread baby, taunting the familiar refrain, “Catch me if you can.” The brash imp races all over the village, teasing animals and tweaking the noses of the citizenry, until there is a fair crowd on his heels intent on giving him a drubbing. Always he remains just out of reach as he races over the winterscape, beautifully rendered with elegant countryside and architectural details by Brett. All the while, Matti is busy back home, building a gingerbread house to entice the nervy cookie to safe harbor. It works, too, and Matti is able to spirit the gingerbread baby away from the mob. The mischief-maker may be a brat, but the gingerbread cookie is also the agent of good cheer, and Brett allows that spirit to run free on these pages. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23444-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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