A pleasing children’s story featuring characters with a unique, intriguing cultural background.




A charming fairy tale set in ancient China with a Jewish twist.

Gathered amid other children, Ping Ling listens as her grandmother tells the story of their famous ancestor Persimmon. It’s a genuinely charming opening, and as Ping Ling’s grandmother narrates, the authors make the reader aware of the importance of the very act of storytelling. Persimmon was the daughter of a Jewish mold-maker and a Han Chinese woman in the third century B.C. She inherits her father’s aesthetic prowess and becomes an excellent panda portraitist. She lives in the forest for inspiration and takes care of a panda named Bampo—a pet reserved only for royalty. Persimmon, no royal herself, happens to save Prince Tin Ling’s life one day in the forest, and after he recovers in his palace he searches for the girl that came to his rescue. Meanwhile, Persimmon is in dire legal straits for having taken a panda as her pet and must stand trial for her crime, facing a possible death sentence. The resolution is fairy tale perfect, and Ping Ling and her playmates are gratified by the tale; the reader will be too, as the prose and Kanowick’s simple, black-and-white illustrations are equally charming. But for readers unaware of Judaism’s surprisingly long (if limited) history in China, some integrated background or a simple preface would have enhanced the book’s broader appeal. A brief sketch of a famous example such as the Kaifeng community or a relevant history of the Silk Road would’ve sufficed. There is a playful historical reference when Persimmon’s father is commissioned by the emperor to build his terra cotta army, and these touches enhance the historical reality while still engaging in the story’s allegorical elements that promote love and loyalty. There’s not a word too many in this slim, enjoyable volume, which is great for children not afraid of a little history.

A pleasing children’s story featuring characters with a unique, intriguing cultural background.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-1453564387

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2010

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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