This introduction to Israel is a book that can be read out of order.
It’s easy to spot the moment when this picture book turns into a rhyming dictionary. After several pages of rhyming verse, the syntax shifts, abruptly, from couplets (“Everybody says shalom / passing by a golden dome”) to a staccato list of words (“Gazing. / Grazing. // Fishing. / Wishing”). There are two types of rhyming words in this book. Some readers will see coming: “Right to left / and left to right. // In the morning… // late at night.” Other rhymes are so unpredictable they’re nearly random: “Haying. // Praying.” There’s no plot to speak of, except that the characters take a trip to Israel and fly home afterward. The book doesn’t quite work as a story or as poetry, but it does make a pretty good travel guide. The family visits more than a dozen sites in Israel (the highlights are listed in an appendix at the back), and the book makes them look very appealing. Shipman’s Raschka-esque paintings have as many colors as a fruit bowl. Observant readers will also notice a pink gecko hiding on just about every page.
The sites are well-chosen and terrifically multicultural. (They include a shuk and a Baha’i shrine.) Readers may like them even better if they ignore the fragmented rhymes on top of the pictures. (Picture book. 3-7)