HANUKKAH, SHMANUKKAH!

Codell borrows the plot of A Christmas Carol for this version set in the tenements and factories of New York City in the early 20th century. Scroogemacher is the transported Scrooge character, with his own waistcoat factory and a beholden nephew named Moshe, and the time is the last night of Hanukkah. Instead of three ghosts, Scroogemacher is visited by the Rabbi of Hanukkah Past, who explains the history of the celebration; the Rabbi of Hanukkah Present, who forces Scroogemacher to relive his own journey from Europe to New York; and the Rabbi of Hanukkah Future, a woman who shows Scroogemacher what today’s society will be like. Lots of history, Jewish customs, Yiddish expressions and the entire plot of A Christmas Carol are all squeezed in along with full-page and spot illustrations that give the characters even more personality. Dickens purists may wince, but many others will find this effort quite an acceptable way to introduce or review the history behind the holiday. (glossary, bibliography, author’s note, illustrator’s note) (Fiction. 7-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7868-5179-1

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2005

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Yet another novel about dreading middle school, this breezy beach read is well-done but offers little new.

11 BEFORE 12

Two BFFs tackle the anxiety-riddled transition to middle school by creating a list of 11 things to accomplish before their 12th birthdays in November.

Kaylan has what her Italian grandmother called “agita”—anxiety—and she has maximum-high levels at the prospect of sixth grade with its cliques and mean girls. Lots is changing in the white girl’s life: her dad has moved to Arizona and her mom is sad; her one-year-older brother, Ryan, once her friend, is now her tormentor; and she is beginning to get butterflies around boys. Kaylan and her best friend, Ari, white and Jewish, create a list, ranging from getting detention and makeovers to first kisses and sabotaging Ryan. When Ari connects with friends from Hebrew school and summer camp, the two BFFs fight. Kaylan’s not-quite-teen first-person voice perfectly captures the horrors of starting at a new school, from the prospect of eating alone in the cafeteria to the awkwardness of meeting a new neighbor boy, biracial (black/white) Jason. Jason supplies most of the book’s diversity; one of the indistinguishable lunch-table friends mentions being Korean but is undeveloped as a character. As is typical for the genre, Kaylan matures and learns to cope with unpredictability, even participating in the talent show as the fastest clementine peeler in school.

Yet another novel about dreading middle school, this breezy beach read is well-done but offers little new. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-241174-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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THE TRUE GIFT

A CHRISTMAS STORY

Newbery Medalist MacLachlan offers a quietly moving Christmas story that illustrates the power of children to change their world. Lily, the first-person narrator, and her younger brother, Liam, spend every Christmas vacation at their grandparents’ farm. Liam wants to buy a cow as a companion for the family’s pet, White Cow, who seems lonely out in the field by herself. By Christmas Eve, Liam has raised enough money to buy a calf companion, but there is also a Christmas surprise of several cow visitors brought by neighbors to keep White Cow company for the holiday. MacLachlan uses her typical taciturn style featuring dialogue and minimal description to convey the intense feelings of the sensitive little boy trying to accomplish a seemingly impossible task. Floca’s delicate, full-page pencil illustrations complement the text with understated emotion. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-9081-9

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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