Skip this treacle and opt for Rachel Rivett and Mique Moriuchi’s I Imagine (2011) or Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Sean Qualls'...

EVERY WHICH WAY TO PRAY

A couple of young hippopotami receive instruction in the ease and pleasure of prayer in this vapid if well-meant outing.

When Harley and Hayley spot a silhouetted pelican sitting on a roof, they think it's an angel. Upon realizing that Pouch is corporeal, Harley is disappointed. He had momentarily hoped to have a close encounter with heaven, but, "We'll NEVER get that close to God." Not so, burbles Pouch. Anyone can be close to God. "That's what prayer is for!" But Harley's book, The Rules of Prayer, say that prayer is hard, he protests. Pouch is joined by a group of kibitzing animals who, rule by rule, contradict the prescriptions in the book and offer liberating encouragement. You don't have to wear special clothes or be in a special place; you don't have to kneel or fold your hands (an especial problem for animals); you can shout and laugh in your prayers. The text is purely pedestrian, unfurling line after line of purposive dialogue. The illustrations are bland cartoons with little to no subtlety in composition, color or expression. The result is a wholly didactic package that delivers a positive and worthwhile message with no art whatsoever.

Skip this treacle and opt for Rachel Rivett and Mique Moriuchi’s I Imagine (2011) or Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Sean Qualls' Who Will I Be, Lord? (2009) for more artful treatments of children's communication with God. (Picture book/religion. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-310-72317-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Zonderkidz

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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Utterly artless but familiar; good for families whose children are nuts for Muppets.

GROVER AND BIG BIRD'S PASSOVER CELEBRATION

The well-known Sesame Street characters visit Israel and impart information about the Passover holiday and story while on their way to a seder at the home of friends Avigail and Brosh.

After a flat tire on the bus, Grover and Big Bird decide to walk, only to get lost. On the way, they help a boy catch his runaway dog, carry groceries for an elderly woman, and convince the grouchy Moishe Oofnik to finally give them a ride to the seder with the promise of eating bitter herbs. “My favorite! Hop in.”  Forced segues within this light-as-a-feather plot lead to snippets of information about the holiday and the celebratory dinner’s traditions, such as the Four Questions, the afikomen ritual and the theme of freedom. For example, worried about being late, Big Bird frets, “Yes, but now we’d really better hurry.” Grover replies, “Did you know…that the Jewish people were in a hurry when they followed Moses out of Egypt?” Familiar Muppet figures fill the commercial-looking illustrations. Bold primary colors depict Grover and Big Bird’s journey; thought-bubble sequences of the ancient Exodus are populated by bewildered-looking generic Muppet faces. Once the seder is complete, an enlightened Big Bird expresses his appreciation and wish to celebrate next year in Jerusalem.

Utterly artless but familiar; good for families whose children are nuts for Muppets. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7613-8491-5

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2013

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Even given the paucity of books on Sukkot, this is one to skip.

THE VANISHING GOURDS

A SUKKOT MYSTERY

The Jewish fall harvest festival celebrated in a temporary hut known as a sukkah is the focus of this slight story about sharing.

Having carefully selected several gourds to hang from the sukkah roof as decorations, Sara and Avi are dismayed when the hard-shelled vegetables begin to fall, split open and are ravaged by the squirrels in their yard. Sara’s anger inspires a dream she has that night in which the offending squirrel emerges to apologize and promises to bring new gourds the following year. Once awake, Sara imagines squirrels shopping for gourds at the local market and acknowledges their hunger with a pile of nuts carefully placed on the sukkah table. As the holiday ends, Sara makes sure the squirrels are well-fed throughout the year. When Sukkot rolls around again, Sara begins to clean up the patch of grass for the sukkah and is surprised to find a number of gourds growing there, sprouted from the seeds left by the squirrels the previous year. This contrivance—gourd vines are hard to miss, and does this family never mow?—fatally weakens the conclusion, with its implicit lesson of sharing. A more creative and endearing version of this theme can be found in Jamie Korngold’s Sadie’s Sukkah Breakfast (2011). Acrylic and graphite sketches in earthy tones add mild amusement to Sara’s infuriating dilemma, though they do nothing to mitigate the implausibility of Sara's discovery.

Even given the paucity of books on Sukkot, this is one to skip. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7613-7503-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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