A novel take on a traditional tale.

In this retelling of the Talmudic tale of Rabbi Akiva’s daughter, a prophecy foretells that a young woman will be bitten by a snake.

Long ago, Zhen Yu’s Jewish ancestors traveled the Silk Road and settled in Kaifeng, China, where they were welcomed into the community. One morning, a young Zhen Yu and her father, Li Jian, set off to Earth Market Street to buy food for Shabbat. A jade seller’s shiny wares catch Zhen Yu’s attention, and soon Li Jian realizes that she is no longer by his side. Distraught, Li Jian runs smack into the elderly Great Fortune-Teller of Chengdu, who clues Li Jian in as to Zhen Yu’s whereabouts—and warns him that on her wedding night, she will be bitten by a snake. Years later, Zhen Yu is to be married, but her willingness to help a beggar (“the mitzvah of giving to the poor”) sets into motion an event that saves her life. Set in 12th-century China, Lyons’ version of the story highlights the history of the Jews in that region. In this retelling, Li Jian does not believe the fortuneteller (“the Jewish people had their own traditions”) but is nonetheless worried. Metallinou’s art, with bold accents, complement Lyons’ narrative, and attentive readers will pick up on the beggar’s resemblance to the fortuneteller and recurring snake motifs. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A novel take on a traditional tale. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781728460253

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023


With a universal message of love and community, this book offers a beautiful representation of a too-often-overlooked...

From a debut author-and-illustrator team comes a glimpse into a young American Muslim girl’s family and community as she walks around in “Mommy’s khimar,” or headscarf.

The star of this sunny picture book is a young girl who finds joy in wearing her mother’s khimar, imagining it transforms her into a queen, a star, a mama bird, a superhero. At the core of the story is the love between the girl and her mother. The family appears to be African-American, with brown skin and textured hair. The girl’s braids and twists “form a bumpy crown” under the khimar, which smells of coconut oil and cocoa butter. Adults in her life delight in her appearance in the bright yellow khimar, including her Arabic teacher at the mosque, who calls it a “hijab,” and her grandmother, who visits after Sunday service and calls out “Sweet Jesus!” as she scoops her granddaughter into her arms. Her grandmother is, apparently, a Christian, but “We are a family and we love each other just the same.” The illustrations feature soft pastel colors with dynamic lines and gently patterned backgrounds that complement the story’s joyful tone. The words are often lyrical, and the story artfully includes many cultural details that will delight readers who share the cheerful protagonist’s culture and enlighten readers who don’t.

With a universal message of love and community, this book offers a beautiful representation of a too-often-overlooked cultural group . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0059-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018


Religious-themed affirmation to help steel little ones fretting about school.

Collier, founder of the international women’s ministry Broken Crayons Still Color, and co-author Bak help kids tackle first-day-of-school jitters.

There’s nothing like a new box of crayons, especially when the first day of school is right around the corner. Avery tries to enjoy coloring, but she feels “flippy, fizzy, and fluttery inside.” When Avery doesn’t want to eat dinner, her father realizes she’s nervous and encourages her to pray. Avery replies that she’s too scared; her father tells her, “You can do hard things.” Later, Avery draws with her crayons, but her depictions of her first day reflect her anxieties—attempting to draw the school playground, she scrawls an image of her being hit by a ball while another child laughs. Suddenly, Avery’s crayons break. Realizing she’s made a mess, she begins to sob: “I’m a mess, just like these crayons.” But one of the crayons Avery broke begins talking to her, telling her not to put herself down. The very polite crayons reassure Avery, telling her it’s OK to feel bad, offering her strategies for calming herself, and telling her that “no mess is ever too big for God.” Vasilica’s sprightly illustration are charming and inviting, while the message is a soothing one—though one more likely to appeal to religious, especially Christian, readers. Avery and her family present Black. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Religious-themed affirmation to help steel little ones fretting about school. (feelings color wheel) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2023

ISBN: 9781400242900

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023

Close Quickview