ELAN, SON OF TWO PEOPLES

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

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. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

HELPING THE POLONSKYS

From the Muslim All-Stars series

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

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 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

STONE ANGEL

A different take on a difficult subject.

A young Jewish girl and her family must flee when the Nazis march into Paris.

Before the Nazis came, life was good. But when the “bad men came / in their brown shirts, guns in hands,” everything changed. All Jews must wear yellow stars, Papa can no longer work, the family is forced from their home, and they are cursed in the streets. They leave the city to live in the woods, enduring hunger, cold and fear of capture. They embark on a long, arduous journey over the mountains to Spain and then across to England and loving relatives. The little girl is aware of the dangers and her parents’ courage, and she remains steadfastly sure that a guardian angel is watching over them. When they return to Paris at the end of the war, there is a beautiful, monumental angel, surely the very one who had kept them safe, holding up the roof of their new apartment building. The girl narrates in an oddly dispassionate free-verse voice, so sure is she of the happy outcome for her family. Though an author’s note provides additional information about the war and the Holocaust and the staggering number of deaths, it will be difficult for young readers to make the connection between the narrator’s experience and the grim reality of the millions who perished. Green’s mixed-media illustrations are appropriately dark and menacing.

A different take on a difficult subject. (Picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-16741-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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