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

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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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This exciting retelling of the Hanukkah story should appeal to both Jewish and non-Jewish children.

A DREIDEL IN TIME

A NEW SPIN ON AN OLD TALE

Devorah and her younger brother, Benjamin, anxiously await their Hanukkah presents.

They are disappointed when their grandparents give them only a very old, misshapen dreidel to share, but Mom knows that this dreidel has magical properties that once helped her reach a true understanding of Hanukkah. The children’s first spin lands on Shin, meaning they have lost something. They have also somehow landed (with the dreidel) in ancient Modi’in, where Jews are in conflict with the Syrian king. The children find that they are speaking and understanding Hebrew and quickly become caught up in the fight between the Maccabees and the Syrian army. After the next spin, Nun, meaning neither gain nor loss, two years have passed and the battles continue. Hey, or halfway, leads to “a great miracle happened here”: one night’s oil burning for eight nights. Finally they spin Gimmel, or everything, and at last return home with a better understanding of their holiday traditions. These modern children are not only witnesses; they use historical information to guide the Maccabees’ leaders and to participate bravely in the events—to the extent that the author seems to imply that these ancients might not have been able to succeed without them. Castro’s black-and-white cartoon illustrations provide readers with visual context, depicting both historical and modern characters with pale skin.

This exciting retelling of the Hanukkah story should appeal to both Jewish and non-Jewish children. (Historical fiction/fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-4672-1

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Thoroughly agenda-driven fodder for discussions about values and diversity, but its streak of silliness should draw a few...

HELPING THE POLONSKYS

From the Muslim All-Stars series

Muslim children help out an elderly (Jewish) couple in a British import that creaks but doesn’t quite collapse under the weight of its worthy purposes.

Responding to a want ad seeking housecleaners, the five young teens—Imran from Pakistan, Leila and Sumaya in stylish hijabs, Adam (a Jamaican convert) and Che Amran, a “Malaysian-looking boy” with Asperger’s—meet on the doorstep of Shimon Polonsky. The elderly gentleman has three days to get an outsized house—in which he keeps dogs, goats and other wildlife—cleaned up before his wife gets home from the hospital. Pausing twice a day for prayers, the companions not only learn to work together to do the deed and make a “Welcome Home” banner, but consign the money they earn to charity. When she arrives, Mrs. Polonsky violently orders them out (supposedly not because of their religion, but even younger children will read between those lines) before being humbled by their selflessness. Slapstick encounters with a mud puddle and a crazed washing machine lighten the load, and in Nayzaki’s brightly colored cartoons, the children sport appealingly huge manga eyes.

Thoroughly agenda-driven fodder for discussions about values and diversity, but its streak of silliness should draw a few chuckles. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: June 4, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-86037-454-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Kube Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

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