A warmhearted introduction to coming-of-age in a worship community.

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ALMOST A MINYAN

In this illustrated, rhyming children’s book, a nearly 13-year-old Jewish girl portrays her family and religious traditions as she readies to join a minyan.

The unnamed girl who narrates this story lives in a town with only one shul (synagogue) that isn’t always full, so forming a minyan—a group of 10 adults, required in Judaism to make a quorum for communal worship—can sometimes be difficult. The girl’s father goes to the shul every morning with his worn tallis, a prayer shawl, and his tefillin, a set of leather boxes containing scrolls with verses from the Torah. (The book includes a glossary that defines words that may be unfamiliar.) But sometimes there are not quite enough people to form a minyan, so the girl looks forward to joining it when she’s old enough in less than a year. The girl explains more about the shul and the prayers, and how her zayde (grandfather) joins the family on Shabbos (the Sabbath day, which starts on Friday night) before going to the shul with her father. When her zayde dies, people gather at the house, making another minyan for prayers. One morning, the girl’s father announces that it’s time for her to join. She protests she’s too young, but “ ‘Your Hebrew birthday,’ he said with a smile, / ‘began at sundown—it’s been here awhile!’ ” Her father allays her anxieties and gives her zayde’s tallis and tefillin. At last, “Papa smiled proudly—he teared up again. / Then, grinning, he told me, ‘Today, you make ten.’ ” Kline (Josiah’s Dreams, 2014) portrays the girl’s coming-of-age and her being counted among her shul’s adults with great warmth, and also highlights her closeness to beloved Papa. The girl’s mother plays almost no role in the story, which is a little puzzling, but the shul looks joyful, with Simon’s (No Rules for Michael, 2003, etc.) illustrations showing a kind, friendly, welcoming community with the people drawn in comfortably rounded shapes; in appearance, they appear to come from diverse Ashkenazi and Sephardic backgrounds. However, the highlights on the girl’s dark hair make it look gray and elderly, which may be confusing. Also, the usual young audience for a picture book doesn’t seem best suited for a tween’s story.

A warmhearted introduction to coming-of-age in a worship community.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Sociosights Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2016

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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DIARY OF A WIMPY KID

A NOVEL IN CARTOONS

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 1

First volume of a planned three, this edited version of an ongoing online serial records a middle-school everykid’s triumphs and (more often) tribulations through the course of a school year. Largely through his own fault, mishaps seem to plague Greg at every turn, from the minor freak-outs of finding himself permanently seated in class between two pierced stoners and then being saddled with his mom for a substitute teacher, to being forced to wrestle in gym with a weird classmate who has invited him to view his “secret freckle.” Presented in a mix of legible “hand-lettered” text and lots of simple cartoon illustrations with the punch lines often in dialogue balloons, Greg’s escapades, unwavering self-interest and sardonic commentary are a hoot and a half—certain to elicit both gales of giggles and winces of sympathy (not to mention recognition) from young readers. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8109-9313-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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