The missing ingredient for this conventional retelling is the characteristic foolishness of a Chelm-centered story.




A classic European fable goes to Chelm for Passover.

A stranger arrives in Chelm, the folkloric town of noodleheads, and reminds its unwelcoming residents of the Passover custom: “All who are hungry come and eat.” The visitor insists that with only a stone and a large pot, he can make a delicious matzoh ball soup. Unimpressed yet willing to follow their own brand of logic, the townspeople bring forth water as the necessary initial ingredient. The stranger, cunning yet humble, boils the stone and produces a soup fit for himself, but for his hosts, perhaps a bit more might be needed? Salt, onions, garlic, carrots, celery and chicken are offered. However, Yenta, the wise woman, points out the lack of matzoh balls. The visitor promises that his stone can make matzoh balls “so big and heavy they’ll sit in your belly like rocks,” and, horrified, the cooks in Chelm provide their own matzoh balls, “so light they can almost fly.” The visitor’s culinary feat is now ready for the town’s communal Seder. A dark, almost gloomy palette of watercolors offers a drab late-wintry rather than budding-spring setting for its wide-eyed Eastern European peasants and their rabbinic-looking bearded visitor. Unfortunately, the looniness normally associated with Chelm is as muted as Tabatabaei’s illustrations.

The missing ingredient for this conventional retelling is the characteristic foolishness of a Chelm-centered story. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8075-7620-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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An interactive book works to get its titular message across to readers.

The narrator, an anthropomorphic cartoon heart with big eyes and stick arms and legs, is nothing if not exuberant in its attempts, clumsy and cloying as they may be. “I love you so much, / but there’s more in my heart. / How is that possible? / Well, where do I start? // Now move in close, and you will see / just how much you mean to me. // My love is huge—below, above. / As you can tell, there’s always more love!” The page following the instruction to move in shows a close-up of the top of the heart and its eyes, one stick arm pointing skyward, though despite the admonition “you can tell,” readers will glean nothing about love from this picture. À la Hervé Tullet, the book prompts readers to act, but the instructions can sometimes be confusing (see above) and are largely irrelevant to the following spread, supposedly triggered by the suggested actions. The heart, suddenly supplied with a painter’s palette and a beret and surrounded by blobs of color, instructs readers to “Shake the book to see what I can be.” The page turn reveals hearts of all different colors, one rainbow-striped, and then different shapes. Most troublingly, the heart, who is clearly meant to be a stand-in for loved ones, states, “I’m always here for you,” which for too many children is heartbreakingly not true.

Skip. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-1376-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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This Mother’s Day tale is rather limited in its audience to those who can afford fancy brunch after their own religious...


From the Berenstain Bears series

The Berenstains’ son adds a Mother’s Day entry to the series, continuing the adventures of the Bear family with a religious focus.

Brother, Sister, and Honey want to do something special for Mama for Mother’s Day, and Papa helps them think of just the thing—brunch at the Bear Country Inn after church—and they can invite Grizzly Gran, too. On the ride to church, Mama points out all the ways other families are celebrating their own mothers even though these community helpers are working on the holiday: Officer Marguerite’s children bring her flowers as she directs traffic, and Mrs. Ben’s children are pitching in with farm chores. Indeed, the trip to church is eye-opening for the cubs, who never realized that some of their neighbors even had children. During the church service, Preacher Brown thanks God for the gift of mothers and quotes the Bible: “Your mother was like a vine in your vineyard planted by the water; it was fruitful and full of branches.” While the illustrations are the same as ever (the smiling bears haven’t aged a bit!), the series seems to have moved away from addressing a variety of families.

This Mother’s Day tale is rather limited in its audience to those who can afford fancy brunch after their own religious services, contrary to its apparent message that being together is all that matters. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-310-74869-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Zonderkidz

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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