Describing a different way to give back to the community (and help oneself), this cheery outing should not be confined to...

MADDIE THE MITZVAH CLOWN

Maddie, a young mouse, loses her shyness when she realizes that she can make others laugh.

She sees the joy on Grandma’s friends’ faces as Giggles the Mitzvah Clown performs at their senior home. He includes Maddie as he makes balloon hats, entertains with juggling, songs, and dances, and, most importantly, talks with everyone. She asks: “Can shy mice become mitzvah clowns?” and Giggles assures her that anyone can learn. Initially mostly gray-toned, the paintings with collage elements include more and more bits of color as Giggles introduces Maddie to the tools of the trade (balloons, rainbow wig, red nose), changing to full color as she takes on her new role. She dons a red wig, pink tutu, and purple, squeaking shoes, names herself “Squeakers,” and begins her visits. Her confidence buoyed by her activities in disguise, she finally makes the biggest change of all: she speaks as Maddie herself to Grandma’s friends. What seems like a didactic story improves along the way as the engaging illustrations involve readers and Maddie’s transformation takes place. In real life, young people (usually teens) can learn to be mitzvah clowns and bring joy to others in this special way. This activity and other ways to do good deeds are described in “A Note to Families,” but no specific references are provided.

Describing a different way to give back to the community (and help oneself), this cheery outing should not be confined to its Jewish context. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68115-523-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Apples & Honey Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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A pleasantly satisfying modern addition to the collection.

SHABBAT HICCUPS

Jonah’s incessant hiccupping during the weekly Shabbat observance prompts members of his family to suggest a solution.

Through the early-evening preparations, the candle lighting, blessings, and dinner, Jonah unsuccessfully tries to ignore or control his hiccups. Cousin Eden attempts to scare them away, and Grandma Sue suggests eating some sugar. Grandma Sue then offers a better remedy: to drink a glass of water all in one gulp. This does the trick—until the next evening, after the concluding Havdalah ceremony, when not only does Jonah have a hiccupping setback, but Grandma Sue also seems to need to follow her own advice. The story’s arc nicely folds in all the elements and practice of the weekly Shabbat celebration while maintaining a slightly understated air of amusing angst. In addition, the inclusion of the traditional Havdalah at sundown to bring the daylong observance to an end is effortlessly described, creating a complete picture for the weekly ritual. Animated faces in gouache and crayon depict a youthful family, including a contemporary grandmother with highlighted auburn hair. Jonah and his dad have pale skin and light-brown hair, while his mom and little sister have olive skin and black hair.

A pleasantly satisfying modern addition to the collection. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8075-7312-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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A beautifully poignant celebration of memories of a loved one that live on in those that remain.

THE SOUR CHERRY TREE

With ample emotional subtext, a young girl recalls everyday details about her beloved grandfather the day after his death.

The child bites her mother’s toe to wake her up, wishing that she could have done the same for her baba bozorg, her beloved grandfather, who had forgotten to wake up the day before. She kisses a pancake that reminds her of her grandfather’s face. Her mother, who had been admonishing her for playing with her food, laughs and kisses the pancake’s forehead. Returning to Baba Bozorg’s home, the child sees minute remnants of her grandfather: a crumpled-up tissue, smudgy eyeglasses, and mint wrappers in his coat pockets. From these artifacts the narrator transitions to less tangible, but no less vivid, memories of playing together and looks of love that transcend language barriers. Deeply evocative, Hrab’s narrative captures a child’s understanding of loss with gentle subtlety, and gives space for processing those feelings. Kazemi’s chalk pastel art pairs perfectly with the text and title: Pink cherry hues, smoky grays, and hints of green plants appear throughout the book, concluding in an explosion of vivid green that brings a sense of renewal, joy, and remembrance to the heartfelt ending. Though the story is universally relevant, cultural cues and nods to Iranian culture will resonate strongly with readers of Iranian/Persian heritage. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A beautifully poignant celebration of memories of a loved one that live on in those that remain. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77147-414-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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Of potential use in settings that have other resources on or background knowledge of Passover.

MATZAH CRAZE

Noa shares her Passover matzah.

Everyone usually shares at school lunch, but one day, the redheaded White girl insists on eating her own lunch. In very simple rhyming couplets, Noa quickly tells her tablemates the reason for eating matzah during Passover. During the Jews’ escape from Egypt, Noa, says, matzah was first created, because “with no time for bread to rise, / it came out flat, about this size.” (The size of the Israelites’ unleavened flatbread is not mentioned in Exodus, a misleading detail evidently added for the sake of the rhyme.) The illustration style sets these pages aside from the modern-day story and renders the Jews and Pharaoh with the same brown skin. Noa brings extra matzah for the rest of the weeklong holiday so that her friends can taste it in different ways: “chocolate matzah, matzah brei… / then a matzah pizza pie!” The book assumes the audience’s familiarity with Passover if not Noa’s racially and ethnically diverse classmates’; there is no glossary and only a limited holiday endnote. At the end, “Noa says, ‘Now you can see / what my matzah means to me. / Sharing it with you this way / makes it a perfect holiday.’ ” This sentiment is, sadly, undercut by Noa’s omission of the traditional welcoming of the Prophet Elijah to the seder. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.8-by-19.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 27.1% of actual size.)

Of potential use in settings that have other resources on or background knowledge of Passover. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-8668-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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