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THE KEY FROM SPAIN

FLORY JAGODA AND HER MUSIC

Based on a true story, an inspirational reclamation of history.

Immigrant musician Flory Jagoda preserved a repertoire of Ladino and Sephardic songs learned from her Bosnian Jewish family.

A descendant of the Altaras family forced to leave Spain during the Inquisition, Flory and her family must now escape from the Balkans during World War II. Crucial to the story of the Altaras’ 16th-century exodus are the two symbols of their heritage: a key for their original home in Spain and Ladino, the traditional language of Spanish Jews. In the 20th century, Flory’s childhood is filled with the stories Nona tells about their ancestors and the music played and sung in Ladino by her talented family. Living in peace and harmony among Jews, Christians, and Muslims, their happy life is threatened as the perils of World War II approach. Fortunate to escape the death the rest of her family suffers, Flory eventually sails to the U.S. without the important key but with her own three significant symbols: her accordion, her Ladino, and her music. Levy gently weaves the history of the Sephardim into the story of Flory’s specific Balkan Jewish life, also blending in some italicized Ladino phrases and words (rendering “grandfather” as “Nonu” rather than the traditional “Nono”). Lovely mixed-media illustrations limn several scenes across the centuries, adding perspective to an element of Sephardic culture that is mostly unknown today in American Jewish circles.

Based on a true story, an inspirational reclamation of history. (author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-2218-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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BASKETBALL DREAMS

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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I AM WALT DISNEY

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

Blandly laudatory.

The iconic animator introduces young readers to each “happy place” in his life.

The tally begins with his childhood home in Marceline, Missouri, and climaxes with Disneyland (carefully designed to be “the happiest place on Earth”), but the account really centers on finding his true happy place, not on a map but in drawing. In sketching out his early flubs and later rocket to the top, the fictive narrator gives Ub Iwerks and other Disney studio workers a nod (leaving his labor disputes with them unmentioned) and squeezes in quick references to his animated films, from Steamboat Willie to Winnie the Pooh (sans Fantasia and Song of the South). Eliopoulos incorporates stills from the films into his cartoon illustrations and, characteristically for this series, depicts Disney as a caricature, trademark mustache in place on outsized head even in childhood years and child sized even as an adult. Human figures default to white, with occasional people of color in crowd scenes and (ahistorically) in the animation studio. One unidentified animator builds up the role-modeling with an observation that Walt and Mickey were really the same (“Both fearless; both resourceful”). An assertion toward the end—“So when do you stop being a child? When you stop dreaming”—muddles the overall follow-your-bliss message. A timeline to the EPCOT Center’s 1982 opening offers photos of the man with select associates, rodent and otherwise. An additional series entry, I Am Marie Curie, publishes simultaneously, featuring a gowned, toddler-sized version of the groundbreaking physicist accepting her two Nobel prizes.

Blandly laudatory. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2875-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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