Stepping out of the shadows: a gentle, persuasive #ownvoices take on a hitherto-untold perspective.

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TEN LITTLE DUMPLINGS

A girl with 10 brothers claims her place in both the family narrative and the world at large.

Amid a pastoral Taiwanese setting, this picture book opens with a male-centered viewpoint touting the super specialness of a family blessed with 10 sons, whom their parents call “little dumplings,” because dumplings are “auspicious, / Bringing prosperity and success.” (Dumplings’ oval shape intentionally resembles yuanbao—gold or silver ingots that were real currency in imperial China for over two millennia, a fact not, alas, shared in the author’s note. The brothers’ similar sizes also conjure the “Ten Brothers” legend in Chinese popular culture, which is.) Seemingly larger than life, these 10 brothers lack individuality when portrayed as a unit, doing “everything together” and becoming “ten fine men”—a desirable outcome that nonetheless hints at an in-group mentality that can marginalize those who do not conform. Readers need to look closely to find the girl Wume cleverly hides in each double-page spread: She dons the iconic school-uniform hat and is part of the action even when obscured. Then the perspective shifts: First writing herself into the story by forming 女 (female) with a calligraphy brush, she eventually, deftly reframes the narrative to assert: “I was there too.… // I listened. // I studied. // I learned.” Eventually, she becomes a mother and celebrates her personal fortune for having a “wonderful girl”—her very own “little dumpling.” (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Stepping out of the shadows: a gentle, persuasive #ownvoices take on a hitherto-untold perspective. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6619-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Tundra

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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While the amusing scenario may prove to be more a nostalgia trip for adult readers than something today’s kids will...

OY FEH SO?

Weekly Sunday visits from their two aunts and one uncle are so disagreeable that three children take steps to alter the atmosphere through some harmlessly exaggerated imitation.

Each Sunday afternoon the family guests arrive, heavily plop themselves on the living room furniture, and make negative, complaining and resigned statements. “Oy,” says Aunt Essy. “Feh,” says Aunt Chanah. “So?” says Uncle Sam. “That was all they ever said!” Despite the children’s parents’ attempts to make pleasant conversation or the children’s enthusiastic play-acting performed for the guests, the reaction is always the same uncongenial three words. Ink-and-watercolor illustrations depict Essy, Chanah and Sam with unflattering caricatures of stereotypical adult Jewish characters, with clownishly large noses, slouchy, overweight bodies and unsmiling faces. In exasperation, the children each take a role and comically mimic their aunts’ and uncle’s behavior, forcing laughter and recognition. This mishpocheh now redeems itself with a newfound willingness to tell family stories and loving childhood memories; the palette here modulates from muted tones to bright, sunny colors.

While the amusing scenario may prove to be more a nostalgia trip for adult readers than something today’s kids will immediately recognize, they will appreciate the overall sentiment even if they miss the Yiddish essence. Nu? (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55498-148-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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A child’s fear is sweetly tempered by the support of an older sister’s comforting, natural solution.

NIGHT LIGHTS

A SUKKOT STORY

On the first night of Sukkot, Daniel is apprehensive about sleeping in the dark sukkah without a night light.

Older sister Naomi likes to show off her knowledge acquired in Hebrew school, so she tells Daniel all about the holiday. She explains how Jews remember the ancestors’ journey from Egypt, why the sukkah is built, and the reason for an open roof made of tree branches. Once the building and decorating of their sukkah is finished, Daniel’s quiet anxiety parallels Naomi’s eager excitement through the family’s outdoor dinner. At bedtime, the siblings create a makeshift sleeping area in a corner of the sukkah. In the dark, scary nighttime noises and shadowy images disturb Daniel to the point where he begins to go inside. But to his surprise, Naomi, who has a touch of the heebie-jeebies herself, encourages him to stay and look up through the branches of the sukkah’s open roof. He sees a sky full of stars, or “night lights,” as they glowed for the ancestors thousands of years ago. Soft paintings provide a contemporary view of a White Jewish family with some parallel historical scenes of the forbearers making their way through the desert. The interwoven explanation of the holiday within the context of the story is enhanced with an afterword that references today’s refugees, who must live under precarious circumstances in temporary shelters.

A child’s fear is sweetly tempered by the support of an older sister’s comforting, natural solution. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68115-547-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Apples & Honey Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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