Legend, history and spiritual significance intertwine in Podwal’s illustrated free-verse poem paying homage to Prague’s Altneuschul, or Old-New Synagogue, which is the oldest in Europe, dating back to 1270, and is treasured for its early Gothic architecture. Built, according to legend, from the stones of Jerusalem’s destroyed Temple, the synagogue is a symbol of perseverance—surviving pogroms, fires, floods and war—and represents the struggles and endurance of the Jewish people. Childlike yet abstract drawings in acrylic, gouache and colored pencil—dominated by a combination of reds that symbolize the blood-stained walls from an earlier murderous rampage—delineate the building’s history as a haven for worship throughout the centuries. It remains today, restored to its original beauty: “Heavy stones, light stones, / stone pillars, stone walls, / stones carved like branches, / other like roots— / and as the angel decreed, / not one moved or changed in any way.” A beautiful, Impressionistic introduction to a portion of Judaic lore and a European architectural marvel. (historical note) (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-15-206678-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2009


In this retelling of a medieval French tale, a starving young acrobat, PÇquelÇ, is allowed to join a Franciscan community only if he promises to give up performing. When he breaks his promise, in order to comfort a plague-stricken infant, a sculpted angel comes to life and bears him away. Although the illustrator frames most of his darkly elaborate illustrations within stone archways decorated with floral designs or grotesques, PÇquelÇ often flies beyond the visual borders, flinging out arms and legs in abandon. His joy is contagious; readers moved by the story’s Italian cousin, retold in Tomie dePaola’s Clown of God (1978), will also respond to this more formal, polished rendition. (Picture book/folklore. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-22918-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1999



This book of seasonal prayers, inspired by Saint Francis of Assisi’s “Canticle of Brother Sun,” and also indebted to Gaelic scholar Alexander Carmichel’s work, can be summed up by a portion of the prayer for November: “Contained in every/season’s end:/the blessing to begin again.” Springtime’s “Sing praise” gives way to summer’s “Rejoice!” and then to harvest time’s “Give Thanks” before winter’s “Be Blest” appears in the encircled prayer that faces each month’s watercolor illustration. The realistic paintings reflect the annual cycle, becoming almost iconographic in the evidence in each of the gifts of the season. These are “God’s good gifts” that in January, for example, are the seeds shaken from dead plants and weeds and the leaf buds on barren branches. The puzzle of the cycle of life springing from death moves on many levels; also appearing in January are predator (fox) and prey (deer). The simple yet sturdy spirituality informing this book will assure its place in both individual and institutional collections that have room for religious titles. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-689-80546-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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