A bit of magic and a happy ending make for a sweet New Year story. Delightful.

ONCE UPON AN APPLE CAKE

A ROSH HASHANAH STORY

Ten-year-old Saralee must save the Siegel House restaurant from disaster.

Zadie is the chief cook, and granddaughter Saralee is his executive assistant. She has an amazing superpower; she can identify even the subtlest of ingredients by smell. Rosh Hashanah is only a few days away, and Saralee’s family is already taking orders for their famous apple cake, made from a recipe with a secret ingredient, one that Saralee has never been able to identify. A rival restaurant is offering an apple cake as well, and they are prepared to go to any lengths to acquire the Siegels’ secret recipe. Watch out for new classmate Harold Horwitz! When Zadie has an accident that affects his memory, Saralee must use her ingenuity and her powerful sense of smell to discover that elusive ingredient. Saralee narrates her own tale in lively, direct language that emphasizes her kind, pragmatic, and earnest nature. Her multigenerational family (Zadie, Bubbie, aunts, uncles, and cousins, but evidently no parents for Saralee) is secure in their Jewish traditions, accepting of one another’s eccentricities, and genuinely loving. There is no intimation that the Siegels are outsiders or any sense of “otherness.” Her multiracial school seems to have an all-Jewish population; perhaps it is a yeshiva or Jewish day school. Humorous cartoon illustrations are interspersed throughout.

A bit of magic and a happy ending make for a sweet New Year story. Delightful. (recipe) (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68115-549-4

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Apples & Honey Press

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Uncomfortably frenetic for something so devoid of plot.

NOAH GREEN SAVES THE WORLD

Jewish summer camp adventures get a little too goofy.

Budding director Noah is certain he’s on his way to film camp—after all, he’s been nagging his parents about it nonstop. But instead, he and his sister are shipped off to Camp Challah, where the socially awkward tween is not confident about making friends. Just before going away, Pops, Noah’s grandfather, tells him he needs Noah’s help saving the world. But the alter kocker is known for his bombastic pronouncements, so not even Noah takes him seriously until a carrier pigeon arrives with a note from Pops. Whatever anyone else expects—or doesn’t expect—of Noah, his real plan is to do what Pops says. Somehow he ends up making friends who go along for the ride, nonsensical and unclear though it is. The first half of the book takes a more realistic tone, with typical camp activities, and it’s not until halfway through that Pops reappears in the flesh to take Noah along. Not only is the pacing off, but it’s odd when the antagonist threatening the world turns out to be an asteroid—not what readers might expect from a grandfather who regularly claims to have been a secret agent during World War II. A supporting character described as part Navajo makes wartime Code Talkers less the undersung heroes they are and more another goofball plot addition.

Uncomfortably frenetic for something so devoid of plot. (Mystery/adventure. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5415-6036-9

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Based on the life of a 19th-century Jewish man who became Pueblo governor, a sweet celebration of diverse heritage.

ELAN, SON OF TWO PEOPLES

Thirteen-year-old Elan learns about his dual Jewish and Pueblo Indian heritage on a trip from San Francisco to New Mexico where he will read from the Torah and participate in a traditional Pueblo ceremony of becoming a man.

In 1898, Elan feels fortunate and special to have a Jewish father and a mother of Pueblo descent. While his family reviews the story of their mixed backgrounds, similarities between the two cultures become apparent. The transition from childhood to adult is respectfully addressed through Elan’s two coming-of-age ceremonies, witnessed by both families. For his bar mitzvah Torah reading, Elan proudly accepts a special tallit woven by his mother with symbols of the Star of David, the Ten Commandments, a stalk of corn and an oak tree. His parents remind Elan that he is the son of two proud nations, as his name means “oak tree” in Hebrew and “friendly” in the language of his mother’s people, the Acoma Pueblo. With his father, cousin Manolo and the other men of the community, Elan is welcomed into the Acoma tribe with rituals in the kiva (appropriately not depicted). Gouache scenes in soft, earthy tones gently depict the journey.

Based on the life of a 19th-century Jewish man who became Pueblo governor, a sweet celebration of diverse heritage. (historical note, glossary) (Picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7613-9051-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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