An appropriately modest reminder of Hanukkah’s promise and the importance of perseverance.


A poor artist, a lost and hungry cat, and a peddler are each blessed with good fortune during the week of Hanukkah.

Misha, “a very good artist,” lives in an impoverished town where few have money to buy his paintings. The first night of Hanukkah Misha finds a tabby cat in his barn, adopts and names him Mazel (“luck” in Hebrew), and shares his meager portion of potato latkes. Though he cannot afford candles for his artisan grandfather’s silver menorah, Misha finds a way to commemorate the nightly ritual by rendering a painting of his heirloom. Using the last of his paints he depicts the glowing flames, one each night of the holiday, until a fully lit menorah is the focus of his canvas. Having just enough paint for the eighth candle makes for a subtle metaphorical parallel to the scarcity of oil in the traditional Hanukkah story, though Stein’s themes of hope and luck are the prevailing ones. The uncomplaining artist makes the best of things until a little luck brings to his door a traveling peddler who finds market potential in Misha’s paintings. Muted tones depict an Eastern European setting, a rosy-cheeked, bearded young religious man, and a wrinkly, sun-weathered old peddler. Washed-out scenes of an Old-World simple life contrast with the deeper tones of Misha’s numerous paintings.

An appropriately modest reminder of Hanukkah’s promise and the importance of perseverance. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4677-8171-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Aug. 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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Hee haw.

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The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2018

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A first-rate sharkfest, unusually nutritious for all its brevity.


From the Fly Guy series

Buzz and his buzzy buddy open a spinoff series of nonfiction early readers with an aquarium visit.

Buzz: “Like other fish, sharks breathe through gills.” Fly Guy: “GILLZZ.” Thus do the two pop-eyed cartoon tour guides squire readers past a plethora of cramped but carefully labeled color photos depicting dozens of kinds of sharks in watery settings, along with close-ups of skin, teeth and other anatomical features. In the bite-sized blocks of narrative text, challenging vocabulary words like “carnivores” and “luminescence” come with pronunciation guides and lucid in-context definitions. Despite all the flashes of dentifrice and references to prey and smelling blood in the water, there is no actual gore or chowing down on display. Sharks are “so cool!” proclaims Buzz at last, striding out of the gift shop. “I can’t wait for our next field trip!” (That will be Fly Guy Presents: Space, scheduled for September 2013.)

A first-rate sharkfest, unusually nutritious for all its brevity. (Informational easy reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-50771-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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