Entertaining, lighthearted, and yummy.

Two Jewish siblings compete for the title of best babka baker.

Esther and Hester, loving, light-skinned sisters who live next door to each other, notice a new neighbor across the street, and each decides to bake him a babka for Shabbat. They mix and stir and spread, filling their kitchens with tantalizing aromas, each certain that it is their baking that will bring the greatest happiness. Sylvester, their light-skinned neighbor, agrees to be the taste tester, and slices are cut and served. The verdict is announced grandly—one shvester (Yiddish for sister) bakes the best CHOCOLATE babka, and the other shvester bakes the best CINNAMON babka. They then sit down to enjoy a Shabbat dinner, and the two sisters go home with a new challenge—KUGEL! Newman’s little culinary romp is infectiously happy and fun to read aloud with all the rhyming names. Sister Esther has a cat named Lester, and sister Hester has a dog named Chester. The illustrations are bright and colorful, with patterned clothing, wallpaper, and kitchen tiles adding to the folksy Eastern European setting. Detailed instructions for baking a babka, either chocolate or cinnamon, are included. The steps are many; the results are delicious.

Entertaining, lighthearted, and yummy. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781728445564

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023


Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022


A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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