ELI REMEMBERS

On each Rosh Hashanah eve, Eli watches his great-grandmother light seven memorial candles, say a prayer and shed a tear over the blessing. Year after year, Eli observes, while not comprehending the sadness his family feels on what should be a happy celebration of the incoming Jewish New Year. His mother and father only tell him “some things are too difficult to talk about.” Following the death of both great-grandparents, Eli takes a trip with his family to Lithuania, the homeland of his ancestors. There they visit the Ponar Forest where a massive gravesite exists for the 100,000 Jews and others who were executed by the Nazi’s during the war. Eli’s introduction to his family’s brutal demise is shocking, yet he quickly understands that it is his turn to remember along with the importance of passing down the stark facts to each succeeding generation. As survivors and the only real witnesses to the Holocaust begin to pass on, educating the young to remember the harsh events of history in order to prevent future genocide is one way to avoid future ambivalence and denial. Although brief, this is a sad, dark, candid look at a boy’s family history coupled with Farnsworth’s equally gloomy blue/gray paintings that evoke a feeling of extreme loss and mourning. While its message is universally significant, its use will be most effective in introductory Holocaust discussions and curriculum. (Picture book. 12-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5309-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2007

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AN ELF FOR CHRISTMAS

The text in Garland’s book has little merit, and appears mostly as an excuse for the digital artwork. The night before Christmas, Tingle, a diligent elf in Santa’s workshop, falls asleep in the cockpit of a toy plane he has been working on. When the plane is wrapped, so is he, and the package is tucked into Santa’s sleigh and delivered to Joey for Christmas. Tingle gets homesick, flies the plane homeward, runs out of power, and hitches a ride with a polar bear. Garland makes no effort to endow his principals with any personality or presence; the artwork suffers from a grating juxtaposition of hyperrealism and smoky, blurred imagery. The proportions and depths of field are discomfittingly exaggerated, except for a scene in which the northern lights are on display above Santa’s workshop—there the otherworldliness perfectly matches the event. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-525-46212-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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THE JAR OF FOOLS

EIGHT HANUKKAH STORIES FROM CHELM

Chelm, the legendary Jewish town of fools, is the setting of Kimmel’s (The Runaway Tortilla, see below, etc.) Jewish holiday tales, only two of which are based on traditional Yiddish stories. The others are original or adaptations of stories from other traditions. All of them feature the “wise” fools whose naïveté gets them into strange situations and provides amusing solutions to their dilemmas. Some of the eight stories work better than others. “The Jar of Fools,” “Silent Samson, the Maccabee,” two traditional stories, and “The Soul of a Menorah,” written by Kimmel, are humorous, with surprise endings. “The Magic Spoon” is an adaptation of the stone soup story in which the stranger makes potato pancakes rather than soup. Other stories are less satisfying. Characters and plot strain for credibility—“How They Play Dreidel in Chelm” may lose its point for those readers who do not already know how the dreidel game is played. Gerstein’s (The Wild Boy, 1998, etc.) ink drawings on oil paint create a fantastic setting in which the characters wear rollerskates, snowshoes, bunny slippers, or duck feet. They sport bananas or fish necklaces, pots for hats, medieval ruffs, and costumes of every sort. Each illustration has fantastic details that transcend time and place. Page borders appropriate to the theme of the story help to break the dense format. An uneven collection, but a few of the stories will provide short seasonal read-alouds. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8234-1463-9

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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