First of what promises to be a highly selective but at least not humorless set of introductions to biblical events.

THE BEGINNING

From the The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series

An ancient scroll transports two modern children and a dog back to witness the biblical Creation.

Great-Uncle Solomon says he has a jarful of scrolls that “prove the Bible is true.” A midnight venture into his library leaves white Peter, 9, his adopted, Chinese 10-year-old sister, Mary, and their unusually smart dog, Hank, floating in a dark but not airless void until a big voice calls out “LET THERE BE LIGHT.” As similar all-cap commands bring day, night, water, and the rest, white-robed Michael arrives in a boat, warns that Satan lurks nearby (“I have a feeling that he is going to try to mess things up here”), and tells them that they have seven days to guess the meaning of the scroll’s secret Hebrew message or they’ll be stuck. When the great serpent shows up he gets a karate kick to the face from Mary, after which the children watch the “first man” (white, in the drawing) rise and name the animals (Hank gets to be “dog”). Peter translates the scroll’s message (“GOD CREATED EVERYTHING”) just in time and brings the travelers back to hear from their great-uncle how God kicked the first man and woman out of Eden but will “fix everything someday.” How? Repeated oblique mention of a lion (the only remotely subtle thing about the tale) might furnish a hint. Book 2, Race to the Ark, publishes simultaneously. Howells’ cartoon illustrations (many not seen) are as straightforward and artless as the text.

First of what promises to be a highly selective but at least not humorless set of introductions to biblical events. (Religion/fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8249-5684-4

Page Count: 112

Publisher: WorthyKids/Ideals

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Based on the life of a 19th-century Jewish man who became Pueblo governor, a sweet celebration of diverse heritage.

ELAN, SON OF TWO PEOPLES

Thirteen-year-old Elan learns about his dual Jewish and Pueblo Indian heritage on a trip from San Francisco to New Mexico where he will read from the Torah and participate in a traditional Pueblo ceremony of becoming a man.

In 1898, Elan feels fortunate and special to have a Jewish father and a mother of Pueblo descent. While his family reviews the story of their mixed backgrounds, similarities between the two cultures become apparent. The transition from childhood to adult is respectfully addressed through Elan’s two coming-of-age ceremonies, witnessed by both families. For his bar mitzvah Torah reading, Elan proudly accepts a special tallit woven by his mother with symbols of the Star of David, the Ten Commandments, a stalk of corn and an oak tree. His parents remind Elan that he is the son of two proud nations, as his name means “oak tree” in Hebrew and “friendly” in the language of his mother’s people, the Acoma Pueblo. With his father, cousin Manolo and the other men of the community, Elan is welcomed into the Acoma tribe with rituals in the kiva (appropriately not depicted). Gouache scenes in soft, earthy tones gently depict the journey.

Based on the life of a 19th-century Jewish man who became Pueblo governor, a sweet celebration of diverse heritage. (historical note, glossary) (Picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7613-9051-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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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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