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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Big fun for new readers who are ready to turn their Where’s Waldo skills to finding text.


It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Big Bunny!

Controlled, repetitive text invites children to read short sentences directing them to find “a foot…a hand…a tail,” and so on. These named body parts belong to a figure that isn’t wholly visible until the book’s end, provoking readers to search them out in the detailed images. Their stark whiteness makes them stand out on the pages, which depict a busy, vibrant setting reminiscent of those in Richard Scarry books and are likewise populated by anthropomorphic animals going about their days. Shifting perspective and scale make it clear that the creature is not just another one of these animals, and many readers will use the title and cover image to infer that they belong to the eponymous Big Bunny. The reveal at the conclusion is that Big Bunny is not a giant but a large helium balloon of the sort seen in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. While this clever conceit is carried out with accessible text, there is a little quibble: the saturation and intentional busyness of the illustrations leaves little rest for new readers’ eyes. The sentences and vocabulary are simple, but finding them on the page is the challenge here.

Big fun for new readers who are ready to turn their Where’s Waldo skills to finding text. (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3458-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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From the Duck and Hippo series , Vol. 3

Hippo dreams of “a good, old-fashioned Thanksgiving.”

It’s not all smooth sailing. Hippo is raking and dreaming of Thanksgiving goodies when Duck plunges into Hippo’s leaf pile and musses it up. When a falling apple bonks Hippo on the head and he then gives it to Duck, Duck thanks him, triggering an invitation to celebrate the day together. The two friends go off to shop and find themselves in mishap after mild mishap, meeting friends and inviting them one by one to Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. Duck engages in mild tomfoolery, but Hippo maintains his genial calm. That evening, Duck goes back to their friends and suggests that they plan a surprise for Hippo. The next day, Hippo prepares a delicious assortment of traditional (all vegetarian) dishes and then waits for his friends—who show up late with their surprise: more food (eggrolls, sushi, pizza, and peanut-butter–and-jelly tacos), which temporarily puts Hippo out because it “is NOT a good, old-fashioned Thanksgiving feast!” Hippo rapidly gets over himself, and the friends all have a good time. While the message of enjoying fellowship and valuing each individual’s contributions is a worthy one, this meandering tale offers little to chew on in terms of character development or plot. Joyner’s anthropomorphic cartoon animals are cheery, but his illustrations do nothing to give London’s story any depth.

Empty calories . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5039-0080-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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