All is happy and peaceful on this springtime Israeli holiday.

ENGINEER ARIELLE AND THE ISRAEL INDEPENDENCE DAY SURPRISE

A sister and brother celebrate Israel’s Independence Day.

Redheaded, white Arielle happily gets ready for her workday because it is a very special day: Yom Ha’Atzma’ut, Israel’s birthday or Independence Day. Her brother Ezra is also getting ready to go to work. Arielle rides her scooter through the colorful streets of Jerusalem and thinks about her great-great-grandfather Ari, who was a conductor on a train from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem over 100 years ago—and who celebrated Passover in Cohen’s Engineer Ari and the Passover Rush (2015) and Sukkot in Engineer Ari and the Sukkah Express (2010), both illustrated by Shahar Kober. Arielle drives a very modern train, but before she starts out, she tapes a poster to the roof of the front car. Many people board the trains, including Arielle’s friends, who want her to join in their activities, but she is going to celebrate with her brother. The train makes many stops in Jerusalem, and Arielle finally sees her brother flying overhead with the Israeli Air Force in planes that spell out “Israel” in their contrails. From his cockpit, Ezra can read the message that his sister has placed on the train—and it is no surprise on this holiday. Orrelle’s bright and splashy art depicts a bevy of happy folk of a variety of skin colors.

All is happy and peaceful on this springtime Israeli holiday. (author’s note) (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5124-2095-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Utterly artless but familiar; good for families whose children are nuts for Muppets.

GROVER AND BIG BIRD'S PASSOVER CELEBRATION

The well-known Sesame Street characters visit Israel and impart information about the Passover holiday and story while on their way to a seder at the home of friends Avigail and Brosh.

After a flat tire on the bus, Grover and Big Bird decide to walk, only to get lost. On the way, they help a boy catch his runaway dog, carry groceries for an elderly woman, and convince the grouchy Moishe Oofnik to finally give them a ride to the seder with the promise of eating bitter herbs. “My favorite! Hop in.”  Forced segues within this light-as-a-feather plot lead to snippets of information about the holiday and the celebratory dinner’s traditions, such as the Four Questions, the afikomen ritual and the theme of freedom. For example, worried about being late, Big Bird frets, “Yes, but now we’d really better hurry.” Grover replies, “Did you know…that the Jewish people were in a hurry when they followed Moses out of Egypt?” Familiar Muppet figures fill the commercial-looking illustrations. Bold primary colors depict Grover and Big Bird’s journey; thought-bubble sequences of the ancient Exodus are populated by bewildered-looking generic Muppet faces. Once the seder is complete, an enlightened Big Bird expresses his appreciation and wish to celebrate next year in Jerusalem.

Utterly artless but familiar; good for families whose children are nuts for Muppets. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7613-8491-5

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2013

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Even given the paucity of books on Sukkot, this is one to skip.

THE VANISHING GOURDS

A SUKKOT MYSTERY

The Jewish fall harvest festival celebrated in a temporary hut known as a sukkah is the focus of this slight story about sharing.

Having carefully selected several gourds to hang from the sukkah roof as decorations, Sara and Avi are dismayed when the hard-shelled vegetables begin to fall, split open and are ravaged by the squirrels in their yard. Sara’s anger inspires a dream she has that night in which the offending squirrel emerges to apologize and promises to bring new gourds the following year. Once awake, Sara imagines squirrels shopping for gourds at the local market and acknowledges their hunger with a pile of nuts carefully placed on the sukkah table. As the holiday ends, Sara makes sure the squirrels are well-fed throughout the year. When Sukkot rolls around again, Sara begins to clean up the patch of grass for the sukkah and is surprised to find a number of gourds growing there, sprouted from the seeds left by the squirrels the previous year. This contrivance—gourd vines are hard to miss, and does this family never mow?—fatally weakens the conclusion, with its implicit lesson of sharing. A more creative and endearing version of this theme can be found in Jamie Korngold’s Sadie’s Sukkah Breakfast (2011). Acrylic and graphite sketches in earthy tones add mild amusement to Sara’s infuriating dilemma, though they do nothing to mitigate the implausibility of Sara's discovery.

Even given the paucity of books on Sukkot, this is one to skip. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7613-7503-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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