A book that fits moving scenes, puzzles, and mice into the same story is an excellent addition to the Jewish tradition.

READ REVIEW

THE PASSOVER MOUSE

This animal story may help explain why Jews became known as the People of the Book: Even the holiest books might include jokes or fables or riddles.

This picture book, arguably, includes all three. It’s a very silly story about a very serious problem. Wieder explains that, when they’re preparing for the holiday of Passover, observant Jews are required “to remove all leavened food, or chometz—down to the last bread crumb!” Fastidious Jews are never certain when it’s safe to stop searching. The Babylonian Talmud addressed the issue with a sort of brainteaser, paraphrased in the author’s note at the end of this book: “The Jewish sages discussed the possibility of mice bringing chometz into a house that had already been searched for it.” Kober takes the passage as an opportunity to paint utterly adorable mice with heads shaped like apostrophes. (He also finds a surprising variety of shades in the skin tones of the human Jewish villagers.) And the author not only works in a chase scene, with townspeople and a cat, but somehow makes a quote from the Talmud seem like a punchline. The endless arguments about cats and mice concludes with: “…This question is not decided.” But the story ends on a touching note, as the whole village joins together in a last-minute search for breadcrumbs.

A book that fits moving scenes, puzzles, and mice into the same story is an excellent addition to the Jewish tradition. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9551-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Aims high but falls flat.

WILD SYMPHONY

Through 20 short poems, Maestro Mouse invites readers to meet a series of animals who have lessons to impart and a symphony to perform.

Brown, author of The DaVinci Code (2003) and other wildly popular titles for adults, here offers young listeners a poetry collection accompanied by music: a “symphony” performed, for readers equipped with an audio device and an internet connection, by the Zagreb Festival Orchestra. From the introduction of the conductor and the opening “Woodbird Welcome” to the closing “Cricket Lullaby,” the writer/composer uses poems made of three to eight rhyming couplets, each line with four strong beats, to introduce the animals who will be revealed in the final double gatefold as the players in an all-animal orchestra. Each poem also contains a lesson, reinforced by a short message (often on a banner or signpost). Thus, “When life trips them up a bit, / Cats just make the best of it” concludes the poem “Clumsy Kittens,” which is encapsulated by “Falling down is part of life. The best thing to do is get back on your feet!” The individual songs and poems may appeal to the intended audience, but collectively they don’t have enough variety to be read aloud straight through. Nor does the gathering of the orchestra provide a narrative arc. Batori’s cartoon illustrations are whimsically engaging, however. They include puzzles: hard-to-find letters that are said to form anagrams of instrument names and a bee who turns up somewhere in every scene.

Aims high but falls flat. (Complete composition not available for review.) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12384-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Readers will agree: All differences should be hugged, er, embraced.

BIRD HUGS

Watch out, Hug Machine (Scott Campbell, 2014), there’s another long-limbed lover of squeezes in the mix.

Bernard, a tiny, lavender bird, dejectedly sits atop a high branch. His wings droop all the way to the ground. Heaving a sigh, his disappointment is palpable. With insufferably long wings, he has never been able to fly. All of his friends easily took to the skies, leaving him behind. There is nothing left to do but sit in his tree and feel sorry for himself. Adamson amusingly shows readers the passage of time with a sequence of vignettes of Bernard sitting in the rain, the dark, and amid a cloud of paper wasps—never moving from his branch. Then one day he hears a sob and finds a tearful orangutan. Without even thinking, Bernard wraps his long wings around the great ape. The orangutan is comforted! Bernard has finally found the best use of his wings. In gentle watercolor and pencil sketches, Adamson slips in many moments of humor. Animals come from all over to tell Bernard their troubles (a lion muses that it is “lonely at the top of the food chain” while a bat worries about missing out on fun during the day). Three vertical spreads that necessitate a 90-degree rotation add to the fun.

Readers will agree: All differences should be hugged, er, embraced. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-9271-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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