Strange and powerful.

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THE GOLEM OF PRAGUE

A dark, mystical tale raised from ancient Jewish folklore tells of a young boy and his encounter with a golem in this picture book for older readers.

A golem is a humanlike giant made of clay or mud, with powers used at the direction of its creator. In 1580 this creature was created by the venerated Rabbi Loew for the purpose of protecting the Jews of Prague from the blood libel, or accusations that they used the blood of Christian children in rituals. Now, in the winter of 1892, young Frantz is determined to search for the golem’s remains, said to be in the attic of the Old New Synagogue. Finding a huge, old, dirty coat there, he beds down in it, sinks into a deep sleep, and experiences the events of that long-ago winter. The two eras are interwoven and filled with parallels. When Frantz awakens in his own time, he is confused and shaken. His beloved, Miriam, has also had disturbing dreams, in which she interacted with the golem and saw Frantz in its eyes. The tale moves from 1892 to 1580 and back, employing beautifully crafted descriptive detail of both history and lore, always maintaining a sense of mystery and awe. Quarello’s very dark, finely drawn illustrations appear in full-page or double-page spreads and present a menacing, violent, sorrowful quality.

Strange and powerful. (glossary) (Picture book. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55451-888-3

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot.

A GALAXY OF SEA STARS

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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This delightful series opener is an exciting blend of Russian and Jewish traditions

ANYA AND THE DRAGON

A Jewish girl meets dragons in a fantastical version of Kievan Rus’, where magic has been illegal for 10 years.

Anya’s the only Jewish child in Zmeyreka. In the mostly Christian 10th-century village, Anya’s family stands out: Her father’s father remains pagan, while her mother’s people are refugee Khazars and Mountain Jews. But unbeknownst to Anya, her village is not like the rest of Kievan Rus’. Magical creatures are nearly extinct everywhere else but common in Zmeyreka. The tsar’s sent a “fool family”—users of fool magic, authorized to use magic despite the ban—to capture the last dragon in the land. The youngest fool is Anya’s age (he’s named Ivan, just like his seven older brothers), and the two become fast friends. But can Anya really bring herself to help Ivan kill a dragon that hasn’t harmed anyone? Zmeyreka’s magical creatures are both helpful and frightening; there are dragons, leshiye, vodyaniye, and even a Jewish domovoi with a little kippah. Ivan, unlike his pale father and brothers, is dark-skinned like his mother, a princess from “far to the east.” Though historical accuracy isn’t perfect (Anya anticipates her bat mitzvah, for instance, and reads Hebrew), it is a fantasy, and anachronisms don’t detract from the adventures of truly likable characters in this original setting.

This delightful series opener is an exciting blend of Russian and Jewish traditions . (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-358-00607-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Versify/HMH

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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