Even with the additions, the story still feels bare-bones.

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BABEL

An embroidered version of the etiological tale from the book of Genesis, with a multicultural cast.

In the cartoon illustrations two children—one pale-skinned and red-haired, her friend darker of both skin and hair—front a similarly varied population that shares “one beautiful language.” Having moved from an overcrowded valley to found a new city, all pitch in to build a tower tall enough to “hold up the sky and stay above the waters,” should another Great Flood come along. As the children eat tower cakes and put on tower hats and play tower games, the structure rises so high that the proud builders decide to make war on God and “take the heavens as their home.” (Except for the tower itself, all of this is invented detail.) God sighs in disappointment and sends angels down in the night. The next morning, “Joseph woke up as José,” “Rachel” as “Rachelle,” and all of the people and animals speak different languages, from Spanish or Chinese to Cow or Chick. Samples of each in appropriate script, with an identifying label and (for non-English) a translation, fill a crowd of dialogue balloons in the final scenes. Calling out variations on “Let’s go this way!” in Spanish, Urdu, Russian, Hebrew, and other tongues, the humbled folk gather into groups and disperse, leaving the still-standing tower behind.

Even with the additions, the story still feels bare-bones. (Picture book/religion. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68115-514-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Apples & Honey Press

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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A pleasantly satisfying modern addition to the collection.

SHABBAT HICCUPS

Jonah’s incessant hiccupping during the weekly Shabbat observance prompts members of his family to suggest a solution.

Through the early-evening preparations, the candle lighting, blessings, and dinner, Jonah unsuccessfully tries to ignore or control his hiccups. Cousin Eden attempts to scare them away, and Grandma Sue suggests eating some sugar. Grandma Sue then offers a better remedy: to drink a glass of water all in one gulp. This does the trick—until the next evening, after the concluding Havdalah ceremony, when not only does Jonah have a hiccupping setback, but Grandma Sue also seems to need to follow her own advice. The story’s arc nicely folds in all the elements and practice of the weekly Shabbat celebration while maintaining a slightly understated air of amusing angst. In addition, the inclusion of the traditional Havdalah at sundown to bring the daylong observance to an end is effortlessly described, creating a complete picture for the weekly ritual. Animated faces in gouache and crayon depict a youthful family, including a contemporary grandmother with highlighted auburn hair. Jonah and his dad have pale skin and light-brown hair, while his mom and little sister have olive skin and black hair.

A pleasantly satisfying modern addition to the collection. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8075-7312-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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Of potential use in settings that have other resources on or background knowledge of Passover.

MATZAH CRAZE

Noa shares her Passover matzah.

Everyone usually shares at school lunch, but one day, the redheaded White girl insists on eating her own lunch. In very simple rhyming couplets, Noa quickly tells her tablemates the reason for eating matzah during Passover. During the Jews’ escape from Egypt, Noa, says, matzah was first created, because “with no time for bread to rise, / it came out flat, about this size.” (The size of the Israelites’ unleavened flatbread is not mentioned in Exodus, a misleading detail evidently added for the sake of the rhyme.) The illustration style sets these pages aside from the modern-day story and renders the Jews and Pharaoh with the same brown skin. Noa brings extra matzah for the rest of the weeklong holiday so that her friends can taste it in different ways: “chocolate matzah, matzah brei… / then a matzah pizza pie!” The book assumes the audience’s familiarity with Passover if not Noa’s racially and ethnically diverse classmates’; there is no glossary and only a limited holiday endnote. At the end, “Noa says, ‘Now you can see / what my matzah means to me. / Sharing it with you this way / makes it a perfect holiday.’ ” This sentiment is, sadly, undercut by Noa’s omission of the traditional welcoming of the Prophet Elijah to the seder. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.8-by-19.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 27.1% of actual size.)

Of potential use in settings that have other resources on or background knowledge of Passover. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-8668-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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