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OLLIE AND TAAVI CELEBRATE THE HOLIDAYS

A book that works better as a primer on the Jewish holidays than as a keepsake.

Two energetic dogs romp through food-filled Jewish holidays.

Press’ debut children’s book gives young readers a tour of the Jewish holy days. Ollie and Taavi, the author's own dogs, lead the way. The puppies, dressed gamely in their yarmulkes, appear in family photos as they encounter the gifts, treats and rituals of the holidays, including hamantaschen with sweet jelly for Purim and colorful dreidels and menorahs for Hanukkah. Homebound snapshots illustrate the clever premise of the book. Using dogs as tour guides should keep small children engaged long enough to learn about the major and minor Jewish holidays and their tactile traditions, like Sukkot enclosures and Passover afikomen. Puppies saying “sorry” to each other on Yom Kippur? It’s here. Press is at her descriptive best in explaining Shabbat, evoking the anticipation and joy of the Sabbath: “So gather round the table, / with friends and family near, / and sing three blessings / we hold so very dear.” Sights, sounds and, most of all, delicious tastes cavort in the poems even more energetically than Ollie and Taavi—a child’s grape juice for Shabbat, honeyed apples for Rosh Hashana and crackling latkes for Hanukkah—though the spotty verse distracts from them and rarely has the cadence to sustain or cement the ideas they embody. Rhymes, though clearly sought, often fail to materialize. When they appear, they strain. The book celebrates Simchat Torah with the lines: “Today he helps me make a flag, / that will wave not lag.” Its Passover text says: “We walked and walked for years to come / and then found Palestine, the day had come.” These stumbles detract from the heartfelt feelings, obvious throughout, toward the traditions and the physical tokens of the holidays.

A book that works better as a primer on the Jewish holidays than as a keepsake.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-1466287211

Page Count: 28

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2012

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STAR OF FEAR, STAR OF HOPE

The thoughtless words of childhood become the focus of the narrator's haunted memories of WW II. Helen recalls the events of her ninth birthday in occupied France in 1942. Lydia, her best friend, comes over to spend the night, and they amuse themselves by telling ghost stories. When a stranger wearing a yellow star like Lydia's comes looking for a place to hide, Lydia suddenly wants to go home. Helen is angry and shouts to the departing girl that she is not her friend anymore. The next day Lydia and her family have disappeared. The simple storyline brings together a complex combination of elements—ghost stories and fights between friends who suddenly find themselves in the context of war—all of which are penetrated by an equally complex narratorial voice, capable of differentiating among subtle shades of emotion. It belongs both to the old woman telling the story and to the nine-year-old girl she was. As a result of this layering of perspective, the characters and story have depth through minimal means (sketchy details, snatches of conversation). This is even more effective in the wondrous pictures. In her first book, Kang's palette contains only browns, grays, yellows, and redsmuted colors, forming the geometric interiors of barren apartments. If the individual colors and shapes in the pictures are simple, as a whole they create an intensely expressive atmosphere. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: May 8, 1995

ISBN: 0-8027-8373-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1995

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GOD BLESS YOU, LITTLE ONE

Satisfactory text; irresistibly delightful illustrations.

A bedtime-prayer board book features a family of badgers.

Speaking in a gentle rhyme, the badgers ask for God’s blessings for family and friends and offer gratitude for the gifts of the natural world. Temple’s stanzas have a lullaby lilt to them, with a cadence that remains consistent throughout. With the exception of the first and last stanzas, which are voiced by the older badgers, the little badger relates the text. The accompanying images show the little badger remembering how much there is to be thankful for, from loved ones like grandparents to the moon and stars. It’s Braun’s illustrations that truly speak to little readers. The badger family is adorable; the softness and simplicity of their features are charming. The same is true of the other woodland creatures and animals. A wintry scene stands out from the rest thanks to the feelings of frostiness and wonder it evokes. There’s the little badger wrapped in a red scarf, nose to the sky, and a tiny mouse leaning on a walking stick, the soft snow floating down around them. Other details, like a lemonade bottle tucked in a picnic basket and a toy boat with a leaf sail, add depth and interest to the scenes.

Satisfactory text; irresistibly delightful illustrations. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68010-632-9

Page Count: 22

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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