Poetic language, attractive illustrations and a positive message about Islam, without any didacticism: a wonderful...

DEEP IN THE SAHARA

Lalla, a little Mauritanian girl, gets her heart’s desire when she shows her mother that her faith is important to her.

Lalla sees her mother, her big sister, Selma, her cousin Aisha, her grandmother and all the other women in her West African town all wrapped in malafa, the colorful veils that wrap from head to toe. She wants to look beautiful and grown-up too, but each female family member tells her that wearing the malafa is more important than beauty, mystery, being a mature woman and even tradition. When Lalla figures out for herself that the malafa is central to the religious practice of Muslim women in her region, then her mother joyously wraps her in “a malafa / as blue as the Sahara sky / as blue as the ink in the Koran / as blue as a stranger’s eye.” The author notes that she changed her opinion regarding the wearing of veils for religious reasons when she lived in Mauritania and wrote this book to share the joy she observed. The collage illustrations done by an Iranian artist show the colorful cloths of “lime and mango,” the beautiful women wearing the veils in different ways and the details of the houses.

Poetic language, attractive illustrations and a positive message about Islam, without any didacticism: a wonderful combination. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-87034-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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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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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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