Imagine a Passover Seder with participants clutching tablets and listening to the Haggadah being read aloud by soothing male and female voices.

Originally published in 2012, the print version of this very progressive Haggadah has been transformed into a fairly static app with a few animated features. Six short videos featuring the Jewish philanthropist/author and his wife, the illustrator, have been created, but they do little to transform this attractive book into an exciting app. Though there is a full, multivoiced narration, few of the watercolor paintings have been animated. The tiny basket holding Moses travels through the Nile’s waters, and some candle flames flicker, but there are no real interactive features. The illustrator incorporates design elements from various cultures into her nonrepresentational paintings, but perhaps her most original addition is a map showing several possible routes for the Exodus. A traditional rendition of the English version of “Chad Gadya” is sung aloud, and there is an adapted version of “Dayenu,” with English words centering on the modern creation of Israel. Like many in non-Orthodox families today, the author has selected parts of the traditional telling and added some original touches. He quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson and Frederick Douglass and includes a poem about matzo by Marge Piercy. Bronfman’s relation of the story of Moses includes the handing down of the Ten Commandments and a description of the holiday of Shavuot (not usually found in the traditional text). In line with the author’s personal beliefs, he states that “[i]n this Haggadah, ‘God’ is understood as ‘energy’—an energy that is both transcendent (beyond us) and immanent (within us).” Little Hebrew is used, and the traditional prayers are mentioned but not printed, even in English. Miriam’s cup, a feminist tradition, is included, and the custom of inviting the prophet Elijah has been inserted closer to the beginning of the Seder than is traditional. There are a few unfortunate typos that should be corrected in an update. Families who are interested in a contemporary, inclusive, nontraditional approach to the holiday may find this version useful for sharing with older children before the holiday (and techies may actually use it at the holiday feast itself). (glossary)          


Pub Date: March 9, 2014


Page Count: -

Publisher: Bronfman Associates

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2014

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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