Kindness is rewarded and a holiday is celebrated in this endearing, satisfying story.

THE PASSOVER GUEST

Miracles occur on Passover, both in the Haggadah and in a poor, Depression-era Jewish American neighborhood.

For Muriel, a young girl living in 1933 Washington, D.C., there can be no Passover seder. Her family is too poor. Stopping at the Lincoln Memorial, she watches a juggler whose shabby appearance suddenly seems to burst into color. She gives him all she has—one penny—and he tells her to hurry home to a seder. She rushes home only to find her parents standing in front of an empty table. But the stranger is now at the door, and he magically transforms that bare table to one overflowing with holiday foods and ceremonial plates and cups. The rabbi is summoned and declares it a “true miracle” to be enjoyed by the whole neighborhood. At the conclusion of the festive meal, the cup left for the Prophet Elijah is empty. In her afterword, the author writes that a favorite childhood story was Uri Shulevitz’s The Magician (1973), which set a Yiddish tale by Isaac Loeb Peretz in a shtetl. This reimagined American setting during the Great Depression and its message of community and faith will resonate with readers. Rubin’s line-and-color art beautifully conveys a Washington, D.C., spring with cherry blossoms blooming, crowded streets that also evoke a long-ago, slightly off-kilter European town, and a gloriously bright holiday evening. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 34.8% of actual size.)

Kindness is rewarded and a holiday is celebrated in this endearing, satisfying story. (illustrator's note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4562-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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ALWAYS MORE LOVE

An interactive book works to get its titular message across to readers.

The narrator, an anthropomorphic cartoon heart with big eyes and stick arms and legs, is nothing if not exuberant in its attempts, clumsy and cloying as they may be. “I love you so much, / but there’s more in my heart. / How is that possible? / Well, where do I start? // Now move in close, and you will see / just how much you mean to me. // My love is huge—below, above. / As you can tell, there’s always more love!” The page following the instruction to move in shows a close-up of the top of the heart and its eyes, one stick arm pointing skyward, though despite the admonition “you can tell,” readers will glean nothing about love from this picture. À la Hervé Tullet, the book prompts readers to act, but the instructions can sometimes be confusing (see above) and are largely irrelevant to the following spread, supposedly triggered by the suggested actions. The heart, suddenly supplied with a painter’s palette and a beret and surrounded by blobs of color, instructs readers to “Shake the book to see what I can be.” The page turn reveals hearts of all different colors, one rainbow-striped, and then different shapes. Most troublingly, the heart, who is clearly meant to be a stand-in for loved ones, states, “I’m always here for you,” which for too many children is heartbreakingly not true.

Skip. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-1376-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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A sweet addition to holiday collections.

HANNAH AND THE RAMADAN GIFT

Eight-year-old Hannah is too young to fast, but she’s not too young to learn about making the world a better place.

It’s the holy month of Ramadan, so Hannah wakes up with her family before dawn to eat sehri even though Dada Jaan tells her fasting is for grown-ups—instead, her grandfather tells her, she can celebrate Ramadan “by saving the world.” This seems a tall order, but a full month of practice shows her that she can do her part. Grandfather and granddaughter visit the soup kitchen and donate clothes to a homeless shelter. Hannah helps her friends at school, sometimes when they see and thank her but also when they don’t. And she plays with a new girl in the neighborhood. When Eid comes around at the end of the month, Hannah isn’t sure if she’s been successful. But assurance from Dada Jaan and a multifaith celebration make it the best Eid ever. With her ups and downs and uncertain moments, Hannah offers children an accessible vehicle for learning about the character-building aspects of Ramadan and of Islam in general. While the story is text heavy, its abundant food for thought will be worth returning to year after year. Jaleel’s bright, animation-style illustrations feature a diverse cast and thoughtful cultural details that enrich the setting. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-16-inch double-page spreads viewed at 73.2% of actual size.)

A sweet addition to holiday collections. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11466-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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