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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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2003

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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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2006

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MONSTER MATH

Miranda’s book counts the monsters gathering at a birthday party, while a simple rhyming text keeps the tally and surveys the action: “Seven starved monsters are licking the dishes./Eight blow out candles and make birthday wishes.” The counting proceeds to ten, then by tens to fifty, then gradually returns to one, which makes the monster’s mother, a purple pin-headed octopus, very happy. The book is surprisingly effective due to Powell’s artwork; the color has texture and density, as if it were poured onto the page, but the real attention-getter is the singularity of every monster attendee. They are highly individual and, therefore, eminently countable. As the numbers start crawling upward, it is both fun and a challenge to try to recognize monsters who have appeared in previous pages, or to attempt to stay focused when counting the swirling or bunched creatures. The story has glints of humor, and in combination with the illustrations is a grand addition to the counting shelf. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-201835-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1999

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