This thoughtful and uplifting volume will keep readers turning pages year-round; here’s to many more.

ONCE UPON AN EID

STORIES OF HOPE AND JOY BY 15 MUSLIM VOICES

Fifteen accomplished Muslim writers from various regions and backgrounds share Eid-themed short stories in this middle-grade collection.

Stylish Hawa from Philly spends Eid in New York City with the Mandinka side of the family and learns to get along with her cousin. Kareem buys himself a new bike, then learns how to embody the meaning of his own name: “generous.” Most of the young protagonists live in majority non-Muslim countries—Americans of various ethnicities in the United States, a Syrian family living in a refugee camp on a Greek island—and identity issues are sometimes in the foreground. The traditions depicted vary, but the themes of family, community, and faith permeate the volume. Whether making or buying special foods—Eid brownies, doughnuts, lontong—or taking care of younger siblings, these young heroes and heroines help make Eid special for others. The diversity within the collection is impressive, including several blended families and a recently converted one, and while the writing varies in style and quality, each story is engaging, full of emotion and thought. Particularly powerful are Jameela Thompkins-Bigelow’s poem connecting present-day Eid scenes to imaginings of the early Muslims who arrived in the Americas enslaved and Hanna Alkaf’s lyrical account of a Malay girl’s attempt to save Eid for her family. A well-placed graphic story by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Alfageeh, who also contributes a frontispiece to each story, provides a reprieve midway through the book.

This thoughtful and uplifting volume will keep readers turning pages year-round; here’s to many more. (Anthology. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4083-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

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THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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Warmhearted cross-cultural friendship for a refugee on distant shores: both necessary and kind.

LETTERS FROM CUBA

In 1938, a Jewish refugee from Poland joins her father in small-town Cuba.

After three years abroad, Papa’s saved only enough money to send for one of his children. Thus Esther boards the steamship alone even though she’s not quite 12. Cuba is a constant surprise: Her father’s an itinerant peddler and not a shopkeeper; they live as the only Jews in a tiny village; and she’s allowed to wear sandals and go bare-legged in the heat. But the island is also a constant joy. Nearly everyone Esther meets is generous beyond their means. She adores her new trade as a dressmaker, selling her creations in Havana to earn money to bring over the rest of the family. In glowing letters to her sister back in Poland, Esther details how she’s learning Spanish through the poems of José Martí. She introduces her sister to her beloved new friends: a White doctor’s wife and her vegetarian, atheist husband; a Black, Santería-following granddaughter of an ex-slave; a Chinese Cuban shopkeeper’s nephew. Esther’s first year in Cuba is marked by the calendar of Jewish holidays, as she wonders if she can be both Cuban and a Jew. As the coming war looms in Europe, she and her friends find solidarity, standing together against local Nazis and strike breakers. An author’s note describes how the story was loosely inspired by the author’s own family history.

Warmhearted cross-cultural friendship for a refugee on distant shores: both necessary and kind. (bibliography) (Historical fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-51647-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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