The 12 stories in this collection, many originating in the oral traditions of Europe and Africa, dating from ancient times to the 20th century, all involve rabbis who use magic to help their fellow Jews. Arranged chronologically according to Jewish holidays, each tale features a rabbi who uses magic and magical powers—powers given (or lent) to him or her by God with the express purpose of helping the Jewish people. Each story, two to four pages in length, is accompanied by an afterword providing information about the holiday to which the story is connected, followed by a brief biographical passage about the rabbi whose story has just been told. The tales, including one about a female rabbi in 16th-17th-century Kurdistan, are set all over the world, including Eastern Europe, Germany, Spain, Afghanistan, and Morocco. Many figures in Jewish history show up in these stories. Maimonides, a 12th-century philosopher and sage, amazes the people of Fez, Morocco, by being able to instantly transport himself to Jerusalem for the Sabbath. The Baal Shem Tov, the 18th-century founder of Hasidism, lost in the Carpathian Mountains during a blizzard, is led out of the forest by Mattathias, the father of the Maccabees who fought the Syrians in the second century and who figures prominently in the Hanukkah story. The captivating black-and-white illustrations, fantastical, mystical, and even eerie, fit perfectly with the stories. While Schwartz can occasionally be overly didactic in the text dealing with the background of the tales, sometimes laboriously linking the stories to contemporary life in an attempt to make them “relevant,” the tales themselves are winning. Just right for reading aloud and discussing in the classroom or at home. (Glossary, source notes) (Folk tales. 8-13)

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-670-88733-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.


The comical longings of little girls who want to be big girls—exercising to the chant of "We must—we must—increase our bust!"—and the wistful longing of Margaret, who talks comfortably to God, for a religion, come together as her anxiety to be normal, which is natural enough in sixth grade.

And if that's what we want to tell kids, this is a fresh, unclinical case in point: Mrs. Blume (Iggie's House, 1969) has an easy way with words and some choice ones when the occasion arises. But there's danger in the preoccupation with the physical signs of puberty—with growing into a Playboy centerfold, the goal here, though the one girl in the class who's on her way rues it; and with menstruating sooner rather than later —calming Margaret, her mother says she was a late one, but the happy ending is the first drop of blood: the effect is to confirm common anxieties instead of allaying them. (And countertrends notwithstanding, much is made of that first bra, that first dab of lipstick.) More promising is Margaret's pursuit of religion: to decide for herself (earlier than her 'liberal' parents intended), she goes to temple with a grandmother, to church with a friend; but neither makes any sense to her—"Twelve is very late to learn." Fortunately, after a disillusioning sectarian dispute, she resumes talking to God…to thank him for that telltale sign of womanhood.

Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1970

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1397-8

Page Count: 157

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1970

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A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot.


In sixth grade, Izzy Mancini’s cozy, loving world falls apart.

She and her family have moved out of the cottage she grew up in. Her mother has spent the summer on Block Island instead of at home with Izzy. Her father has recently returned from military service in Afghanistan partially paralyzed and traumatized. The only people she can count on are Zelda and Piper, her best friends since kindergarten—that is, until the Haidary family moves into the upstairs apartment. At first, Izzy resents the new guests from Afghanistan even though she knows she should be grateful that Dr. Haidary saved her father’s life. But despite her initial resistance (which manifests at times as racism), as Izzy gets to know Sitara, the Haidarys’ daughter, she starts to question whether Zelda and Piper really are her friends for forever—and whether she has the courage to stand up for Sitara against the people she loves. Ferruolo weaves a rich setting, fully immersing readers in the largely white, coastal town of Seabury, Rhode Island. Disappointingly, the story resolves when Izzy convinces her classmates to accept Sitara by revealing the Haidarys’ past as American allies, a position that put them in so much danger that they had to leave home. The idea that Sitara should be embraced only because her family supported America, rather than simply because she is a human being, significantly undermines the purported message of tolerance for all.

A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-30909-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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