An excellent children’s novel featuring a captivating, charming young girl.

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WHEN THE HURRICANE CAME

In Liss-Levinson’s (Cookie the Seder Cat, 2011, etc.) fine children’s book, a girl and her family are forced to flee their home to escape Hurricane Katrina.

Gertie, a 9-year-old Jewish girl growing up in New Orleans, loves to eat cookies and sponge cake with her brother Jonah at parties at the synagogue; on Wednesdays, she visits her Grandma Rose at a nursing home and calls out numbers for the bingo game. But when Katrina heads toward the city, Gertie and her family must evacuate. Gertie’s mother instructs her to pack up enough clothes, books and toys for a two-day stay at her aunt’s house in Memphis, Tenn., until the storm passes. Once there, Gertie feels safe but worries about her grandmother, her house, her friends and her father—a dedicated doctor who stays behind to help. Due to the overwhelming disaster, the two-day stay stretches into weeks, and Gertie finds herself having to attend a new Jewish school and make new friends. Much of the book’s success lies in Gertie’s memorable first-person voice. As Gertie relates her struggle to adapt to her new life—and then to return to her old, but substantially altered one—the reader witnesses a character’s slow, beautiful evolution. Gertie learns to compromise, to feel gratitude for the little things and to help those less fortunate than she is. The author manages to capture Gertie’s endearing naïveté as well as her adeptness in making connections and thoughtful choices. Wonderful stories abound; Gertie questions why God didn’t uphold his promise to Noah never to bring another ruinous flood to Earth and, in another scene, holds a burial for her broken Barbie doll in the backyard. When Gertie attempts to surprise her family by concocting a noodle-pudding recipe for Rosh Hashana (with leftover spaghetti and hard-boiled eggs), her brother complains, and she comments, “Jonah, you don’t know any better, because you are only a five year old chef. And I am almost ten. So I have better taste than you. Now and forever. So there. And Happy New Year to you too.” The author includes a helpful glossary of pertinent Jewish terminology and a list of addresses for donating books to organizations throughout the world.

An excellent children’s novel featuring a captivating, charming young girl.

Pub Date: April 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-1470082536

Page Count: 138

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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Lit with sweetness.

SHARE SOME KINDNESS, BRING SOME LIGHT

Coco, who loves her gentle friend Bear, is shocked to learn that the other forest animals do not know about his kindness.

Inspired by one of her grandmother’s favorite maxims, Coco, a girl with light brown skin and curly brown hair, works with Bear to “share some kindness [and] bring some light” to the other animals in the forest. Interpreting it literally, the two make cookies (kindness) and lanterns (light) to share with the other animals. They trek through the snow-covered forest to deliver their gifts, but no one trusts Bear enough to accept them. As night begins to fall, Bear and Coco head home with the lanterns and cookies. On the way through the quiet forest, they hear a small voice pleading for help; it’s Baby Deer, stuck in the snow. They help free him, and Bear gives the young one a ride home on his back. When the other animals see both that Baby Deer is safe and that Bear is responsible for this, they begin to recognize all the wonderful things about Bear that they had not noticed before. The episode is weak on backstory—how did Coco and Bear become friends? Why don’t the animals know Bear better by now?—but Stott’s delicately inked and colored illustrations offer beguiling views of lightly anthropomorphized woodland critters that make it easy to move past these stumbling blocks. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 67% of actual size.)

Lit with sweetness. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6238-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Essential.

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THIS BOOK IS ANTI-RACIST

20 LESSONS ON HOW TO WAKE UP, TAKE ACTION, AND DO THE WORK

A guidebook for taking action against racism.

The clear title and bold, colorful illustrations will immediately draw attention to this book, designed to guide each reader on a personal journey to work to dismantle racism. In the author’s note, Jewell begins with explanations about word choice, including the use of the terms “folx,” because it is gender neutral, and “global majority,” noting that marginalized communities of color are actually the majority in the world. She also chooses to capitalize Black, Brown, and Indigenous as a way of centering these communities’ voices; "white" is not capitalized. Organized in four sections—identity, history, taking action, and working in solidarity—each chapter builds on the lessons of the previous section. Underlined words are defined in the glossary, but Jewell unpacks concepts around race in an accessible way, bringing attention to common misunderstandings. Activities are included at the end of each chapter; they are effective, prompting both self-reflection and action steps from readers. The activities are designed to not be written inside the actual book; instead Jewell invites readers to find a special notebook and favorite pen and use that throughout. Combining the disruption of common fallacies, spotlights on change makers, the author’s personal reflections, and a call to action, this powerful book has something for all young people no matter what stage they are at in terms of awareness or activism.

Essential. (author’s note, further reading, glossary, select bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7112-4521-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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