NONNA'S HANUKKAH SURPRISE

When Rachel’s special, new menorah is accidentally left on the plane, her resourceful Italian grandmother finds a way for the family to light candles and celebrate Hanukkah.

Though Nonna and the cousins celebrate Christmas, Rachel and her family take a trip to visit and bring Hanukkah with them. Rachel carefully packs her carry-on bag with decorations, dreidels, chocolate gelt, candles for the eight nights, and a special hanukkiah on which each branch is shaped like a female Maccabee fighter. Sleepy after the long flight, Rachel forgets her bag when they get off the plane. Nonna is eager to help in the preparations for Hanukkah when Rachel realizes she doesn’t have the menorah. Through tears of disappointment, Rachel teaches Nonna about the menorah. Nonna then surprises her with a clever and beautifully homemade menorah created from her treasured empty perfume bottles. This well-crafted story of an interfaith family focuses on the Hanukkah celebration, lightly blending Italian food—panettone and lasagna—with latkes at a dinner on the first night. Fisman adroitly incorporates the historical significance of Hanukkah into Rachel’s discussion of the menorah, easily working it into a believable story. Pastel-colored drawings successfully extend the story’s action, providing some foreshadowing and flashback scenes when Rachel leaves and remembers her forgotten bag.

A lovely choice. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4677-3476-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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A touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area.

RED AND LULU

A pair of cardinals is separated and then reunited when their tree home is moved to New York City to serve as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

The male cardinal, Red, and his female partner, Lulu, enjoy their home in a huge evergreen tree located in the front yard of a small house in a pleasant neighborhood. When the tree is cut down and hauled away on a truck, Lulu is still inside the tree. Red follows the truck into the city but loses sight of it and gets lost. The birds are reunited when Red finds the tree transformed with colored lights and serving as the Christmas tree in a complex of city buildings. When the tree is removed after Christmas, the birds find a new home in a nearby park. Each following Christmas, the pair visit the new tree erected in the same location. Attractive illustrations effectively handle some difficult challenges of dimension and perspective and create a glowing, magical atmosphere for the snowy Christmas trees. The original owners of the tree are a multiracial family with two children; the father is African-American and the mother is white. The family is in the background in the early pages, reappearing again skating on the rink at Rockefeller Center with their tree in the background.

A touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7733-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Kid-friendly dark humor.

POULTRYGEIST

The chicken crosses the road…and arrives on the other side as a ghost.

The action kicks off before the title page when the chicken crossing the road winds up a splatter of feathers against the grille of a tractor trailer. When its ghost rises from the squished remains, it meets a host of other animal ghosts that encourage the new poultrygeist to start getting scary. They probably didn’t realize, however, that they’d be the ones to be frightened. Geron’s text is full of punny lines like “It’s time to get foul, fowl!” and “Ghosts of a feather haunt together!” Midway through, the poultrygeist turns to readers to make sure they’re not too scared. This is a nice touch, maintaining engagement while also giving more timid readers time to take a beat. Oswald’s illustrations display masterful use of color, with bright, ghostly animals against a dark, often all-black background, the dialogue shown in colors that correspond to the speakers. These ghosts do become scary but not enough to completely terrorize readers. Oswald’s skill is seen in full effect, as readers witness only the animal ghosts’ reactions to the poultrygeist’s scariest face, building suspense for the full reveal. This book is just right for kids easing into the slightly scary and macabre but who still want a safe and fun read.

Kid-friendly dark humor. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1050-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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