This exciting retelling of the Hanukkah story should appeal to both Jewish and non-Jewish children.

A DREIDEL IN TIME

A NEW SPIN ON AN OLD TALE

Devorah and her younger brother, Benjamin, anxiously await their Hanukkah presents.

They are disappointed when their grandparents give them only a very old, misshapen dreidel to share, but Mom knows that this dreidel has magical properties that once helped her reach a true understanding of Hanukkah. The children’s first spin lands on Shin, meaning they have lost something. They have also somehow landed (with the dreidel) in ancient Modi’in, where Jews are in conflict with the Syrian king. The children find that they are speaking and understanding Hebrew and quickly become caught up in the fight between the Maccabees and the Syrian army. After the next spin, Nun, meaning neither gain nor loss, two years have passed and the battles continue. Hey, or halfway, leads to “a great miracle happened here”: one night’s oil burning for eight nights. Finally they spin Gimmel, or everything, and at last return home with a better understanding of their holiday traditions. These modern children are not only witnesses; they use historical information to guide the Maccabees’ leaders and to participate bravely in the events—to the extent that the author seems to imply that these ancients might not have been able to succeed without them. Castro’s black-and-white cartoon illustrations provide readers with visual context, depicting both historical and modern characters with pale skin.

This exciting retelling of the Hanukkah story should appeal to both Jewish and non-Jewish children. (Historical fiction/fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-4672-1

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Series fans will enjoy revisiting familiar characters and exploring the island of Cuba with them.

THE MADRE DE AGUAS OF CUBA

From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 5

The Unicorn Rescue Society investigates the disappearance of a Cuban sea serpent.

In the fifth series installment, returning protagonists Uchenna and Elliot are in school, learning about water, when Professor Fauna calls them away. As the kids board the professor’s rickety single-propeller plane, they learn where exactly they are heading: Cuba. The island is in the middle of a massive drought, and Professor Fauna has reason to believe that the Madres de aguas (the Mother of Waters) has gone missing. It’s up to the society to find the sea serpent before any more damage is done to the people and wildlife of Cuba. As they set out on their mission of derring-do, they realize that once again they are up against their nemeses, the Schmoke Brothers. Via Yoenis, their Cuban American society liaison, Uchenna, Elliot, and readers learn about the political and economic hardships experienced by the people of Cuba, the island’s lack of basic goods and necessities, and Cuba’s need for real democracy (although the current role of the military is elided). This is conveyed within a quick, fast-paced read that’s ideal for kids who want a straightforward magical adventure. Uchenna is Nigerian, Elliot is white and Jewish, and Professor Fauna is Peruvian.

Series fans will enjoy revisiting familiar characters and exploring the island of Cuba with them. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3142-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Both cozy and inspiring, this eco-fable conveys both grim truths and a defiant call to action.

THE SILVER ARROW

The best birthday present is a magical train full of talking animals—and a new job.

On Kate’s 11th birthday, she’s surprised by the arrival of rich Uncle Herbert. Uncle Herbert bears a gift: a train. Not a toy train, a 102.36-ton steam engine, with cars that come later. When Kate and her brother, Tom, both white, play in the cab of the Silver Arrow, the train starts up, zooming to a platform packed with animals holding tickets. Thus begins Kate and Tom’s hard work: They learn to conduct the train and feed the fire box, instructed by the Silver Arrow, which speaks via printed paper tape. The Silver Arrow is a glorious playground: The library car is chockablock with books while the candy car is brimful of gobstoppers and gummy bears. But amid the excitement of whistle-blowing and train conducting, Kate and Tom learn quiet messages from their animal friends. Some species, like gray squirrels and starlings, are “invaders.” The too-thin polar bear’s train platform has melted, leaving it almost drowned. Their new calling is more than just feeding the coal box—they need to find a new balance in a damaged world. “Feeling guilty doesn’t help anything,” the mamba tells them. Humans have survived so effectively they’ve taken over the world; now, he says, “you just have to take care of it.” (Illustrations not seen.)

Both cozy and inspiring, this eco-fable conveys both grim truths and a defiant call to action. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53953-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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