THE STONE LAMP

EIGHT STORIES OF HANUKKAH THROUGH HISTORY

In this ambitious and unusual oversized volume, eight episodes from Jewish history are experienced through the eyes of child witnesses. Each chapter begins with a brief description of a complex topic, such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, the false Messiah, Kristallnacht, and the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. After each of the histories, a child living through the events offers a lyrical first-person account (in Hesse’s trademark free verse) of a muted Hanukkah celebration. More often than not, there are only oblique references to the events in the narrative. The Kristallnacht episode tells of a Hanukkah table on which Papa’s book is placed. An italicized line following the narrative tells the reader that the narrator, David, hid while his brothers and father were taken away on Kristallnacht. The metaphor of the Jewish people as a flame that is inextinguishable against all odds unifies the stories. Pinkney’s bold paint and scratchboard illustrations also emphasize the theme of light and flame. (Picture book/nonfiction. 10+)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7868-0619-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2003

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Readers of both genders will take to this original and hilarious story—so long as they do not still believe in Santa.

THE NAUGHTY LIST

A zany take on how Christmas happens aims straight for the middle-grade humor sweet spot.

The year her father moves to North Dakota pursuing an oil job, 12-year-old Bobbie Mendoza decides to ignore Christmas. Before this, Bobbie was a normal girl, but now she oozes ’tude: her favorite color is “black. Black goes with everything. Even me.” Among the other indignities of this year, the family’s inflatable Zombie Santa attacks Bobbie—resulting in a “stupid HOT PINK cast.” Bobbie’s decision to get younger brother Tad a 3D Mega Machine by any means necessary leads to her abduction by two elves, learning the truth about the evil keeper of the Naughty List, and discovering what Tad really wants for Christmas. Along the way Bobbie meets a less-than-admirable Santa in a North Pole redolent of refried beans, along with equally unconventional reindeer led by antler-sparking Larry (not the other one). The copious illustrations, black-and-white cartoons reminiscent of Fry’s comic strip, “Over the Hedge,” add fun, clarity, and (oddly enough) believability to the text. Despite the female main focus, boys will enjoy the story too.  References to butts, farts, and lead reindeer Larry’s incontinence will cause mirth and the occasional guffaw.

Readers of both genders will take to this original and hilarious story—so long as they do not still believe in Santa. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-235475-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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JEREMY FINK AND THE MEANING OF LIFE

Years before he died, Jeremy Fink’s father prepared a box containing “the meaning of life” for his son to open on his 13th birthday. When Jeremy receives the box a few months before that momentous day, the keys are missing, and it’s up to him and his best friend Lizzy to find a way into the box. The search for the keys—or, failing the keys, the meaning of life itself—takes the two throughout New York City and into a spot of trouble, which lands them a very unusual community-service sentence: They must return treasures to the children, now grown, who pawned them long ago. This device brings Jeremy and Lizzy—both originals to the core—into contact with a calculated variety of characters, all of whom have their own unique angles on the meaning of life. Mass spins a leisurely tale that’s occasionally Konigsburg-esque, carefully constructed to give narrator Jeremy ample time to reflect on his encounters. It may be a subplot or two in need of a trim, and the resolution will surprise nobody but Jeremy, but agreeable on the whole. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-316-05829-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2006

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