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Worthy in intention but slightly uneven.

Stories and activities are combined in this illustrated book on Zen Buddhism.

Burges explains the fundamentals of Zen with adapted folktales and fables, each of which highlights a core tenet, such as “Everything Changes,” “Everything Is Connected,” and “This Present Moment.” After each story, activities are suggested, such as sitting zazen (meditation) or writing a haiku. While the premise is intriguing, the execution is slightly lacking. Some of the stories perpetuate outdated tropes about women, casting them as gossips or shrews. And some of the activities rely on items that not all children will have access to, such as a meditation cushion, a meditation bell, or even a caregiver with the time to assist the child. The core of Zen, that of sitting zazen and paying attention to one’s breathing, is rightly emphasized, but other recommendations, such as the suggestion to give away unneeded or extra toys, assume readers are from middle- or upper-class backgrounds. Overall, though, this book about learning to meditate and the inward sense of peace it cultivates offers readers an antidote to social media’s damaging emphasis on external validation. Colorful, accomplished illustrations primarily depict light-skinned or Asian characters, though a brown-skinned child is shown on the cover and early in the book.

Worthy in intention but slightly uneven. (glossary) (Nonfiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 14, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-61180-992-3

Page Count: 92

Publisher: Bala Kids/Shambhala

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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From the Called and Courageous Girls series

An exciting and thought-provoking evocation of a strong, brave young woman.

In a retelling of the story of Deborah taken from the Hebrew Bible, she emerges as thoughtful and trustworthy, with God’s words to guide her.

While on a hill overlooking her village, Deborah spots an army of chariots. She and her friends bravely rush to warn the villagers in time to escape. King Jabin, his general, Sisera, and his men destroy the village, but the people, including Deborah’s family, escape. The army continues to attack villages throughout the land, maintaining a reign of terror. Deborah definitely has God on her side, as he speaks directly to her, telling her that she has been chosen to lead her people to freedom. On God’s instructions the battle is joined with Deborah and the soldier Barak in the lead and with God’s intervention in the form of lightning, pouring rain, and floods. With their bravery and that of the Israelites, freedom is achieved. The authors employ accessible and poetic language to tell the tale, with careful attention to the characters and details as they appear in the Bible and with particular emphasis on Deborah’s faith in God. Elwell’s strongly hued illustrations capture the texture, light, action, and power of the tale. Deborah and the Israelites are depicted with dark hair and eyes and deep-toned swarthy skin color.

An exciting and thought-provoking evocation of a strong, brave young woman. (questions, author’s note) (Picture book/religion. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7369-7371-7

Page Count: 49

Publisher: Harvest House

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Rahab is intriguing and exciting, but her tale is told in a saccharine, preachy tone.

The story of Rahab, a woman of Jericho, appears in both the Old and New Testaments.

She is known for her bravery when the Israelites were about to conquer the city. She had heard of their belief in one God and wondered if this faith could be hers. When two Israelite spies were in danger of discovery and desperately needed assistance, she offered them a hiding place, but that also caused them to be locked inside the city walls. With prayer and guidance from this newly found God, she cleverly devised a way for them to escape. In return she demanded that they guarantee safety for herself and her family. When the walls came tumbling down, the Israelites kept their promise and accepted her as one of them, giving her the opportunity for a new beginning in her new faith. She is further idealized as the fifth-great-grandmother of Jesus, God granting her this honor for her great courage and faith, a detail that centers this telling firmly as Christian rather than Jewish. The authors have taken the main body of Rahab’s tale and expanded it. Her adult life as a prostitute is somewhat glossed over as “making a lot of bad choices,” though her “profession” is hinted at in a readers’ note. Elwell’s very bright, purple-and-pink, sun-washed illustrations enhance the narration, providing a strong vision of the time and place. All characters are shown as having dark and swarthy skin color.

Rahab is intriguing and exciting, but her tale is told in a saccharine, preachy tone. (reflection questions) (Picture book/religion. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7369-7373-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harvest House

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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