The story’s dialogue-driven, child-oriented approach makes a nifty starting point for this “origin tale” of a much-loved...

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ZIGGY'S BIG IDEA

A young boy contributes to shtetl life by thinking up new ways to do ordinary things and, in the process, helps a baker perfect his “top secret boiled buns.”

Many of Ziggy’s ideas have good intentions but aren’t always practical, like the “shulstilts” he creates for the very short rabbi. Pleased, the rabbi anticipates being taller than the bar mitzvah students and being able to read the Torah with ease—until he falls forward and off the homemade stilts, losing his black hat. Undeterred, Ziggy goes home to think up some new ideas and in the night, dreams up his biggest one yet. He has thought of a way to help the baker bake his special buns so the center isn’t always undercooked. Ziggy shows the baker how to create a dough circle instead of a bun to drop into the boiling water before baking. Perfectly puffed and beautifully browned, the new creation is akin to a bracelet and renamed a bagel for the German term. (A concluding note delves into the derivation of the word “bagel.”) Illustrations are detailed and charming, utilizing digital collage to limn scenes of a brick-walled bakery in an Eastern European village (though the French-looking mustachio on Moishe, the baker, seems a tad out of place).

The story’s dialogue-driven, child-oriented approach makes a nifty starting point for this “origin tale” of a much-loved breakfast food. (recipe) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7613-9053-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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For people familiar with Jerusalem the images are recognizable. For a clear, complete, nuanced introduction, look elsewhere.

JOURNEY THROUGH JERUSALEM

This brief picture-book tour of Jerusalem has a clear Jewish and Christian viewpoint.

Three kittens and their mama are the tour guides. They provide diversion as they guide readers past iconic sites—beginning with a lesser-known windmill near Hezekiah’s Tunnel, through the Jaffa Gate of the Old City, past the Cardo columns built by the Romans, to the Western Wall outside the Dome of the Rock, and down Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They then take a light-rail train outside the Old City to the Mahane Yehuda Market, the Knesset building, and the Shrine of the Book. Mama cat provides commentary, explaining, for example, that the Knesset is “where all the important laws are made” and that the Shrine of the Book is the “special home of the oldest Hebrew Bible ever found.” In contrast, the Dome of the Rock is described as “built on a very sacred spot,” with no mention that it is a holy place for Muslims as well as for Jews. Stock photos with images of the cats superimposed are busy and often unclear. Explanations are incomplete, and the geopolitical, architectural, and religious complexity of Jerusalem is thereby given short shrift.

For people familiar with Jerusalem the images are recognizable. For a clear, complete, nuanced introduction, look elsewhere. (Informational picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: April 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68115-531-9

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Apples & Honey Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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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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A mediocre, bland offering for the holiday shelf.

A WATERMELON IN THE SUKKAH

A child’s favorite fruit creates a challenge for his class when it comes time for the annual ritual of decorating the classroom’s Sukkah, the traditional outdoor hut for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

Michael arrives at school with a choice fruit, following his teacher’s request to bring in a favorite one. As the children prepare to hang their bananas, pears, grapes and oranges, Michael realizes that his large, round, heavy watermelon will be difficult to suspend, as is the custom, from the open-air latticed roof of the Sukkah. Ideas abound: a basket of sorts could be made from lots of string, or rubber bands, or tape….Disappointed but not discouraged, Michael tries a hammock-style approach made from a large piece of fabric and four hooks, and to everyone’s surprise, it works. Perhaps a pumpkin will be next? Stock cartoon faces dominate the colorful gouache paintings of a Judaic school. The story, too, feels dutiful rather than inspired, an off-the-shelf plot to fill a niche rather than a meaningful celebration of this joyous holiday.

A mediocre, bland offering for the holiday shelf. (note) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7613-8118-1

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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