Not a necessary or even additional purchase.

READ REVIEW

MATZAH BELOWSTAIRS

It’s not a proper holiday dinner without all the ingredients, and a Passover Seder needs matzah.

Passover is about to start, and there is consternation in one apartment. Well, not for the human family but for the mouse family who lives in their Belowstairs home. There is no matzah, not even a crumb for the mouse-sized celebration. Grandpa Mouse blames it on the human family’s new tin box. The humans proceed with the Seder Abovestairs, and the father hides the afikoman. When the youngest child, Eli, goes in search of the hidden board of matzah, Miriam Mouse watches with great interest. The two meet, and Miriam comes up with the perfect solution—an even split. Passover can proceed for the rodents, and the Seder can conclude for the humans. The human family is depicted as observant, with the men wearing kippot. The mice also wear them. The story is slight, and even with a very brief author’s note, those who do not celebrate Passover will not gain any understanding of this very important and meaningful holiday. Meanwhile, those who do may find themselves feeling insulted by its rudimentary nature. The digitized illustrations are colorfully comic in style, but they do not make the most of the difference in sizes between the humans and the rodents. The humans present white, and Eli wears glasses.

Not a necessary or even additional purchase. (author’s note) (Picture book/religion. 3-5)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-2168-1

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug.

THE HUG

What to do when you’re a prickly animal hankering for a hug? Why, find another misfit animal also searching for an embrace!

Sweet but “tricky to hug” little Hedgehog is down in the dumps. Wandering the forest, Hedgehog begs different animals for hugs, but each rejects them. Readers will giggle at their panicked excuses—an evasive squirrel must suddenly count its three measly acorns; a magpie begins a drawn-out song—but will also be indignant on poor hedgehog’s behalf. Hedgehog has the appealingly pink-cheeked softness typical of Dunbar’s art, and the gentle watercolors are nonthreatening, though she also captures the animals’ genuine concern about being poked. A wise owl counsels the dejected hedgehog that while the prickles may frighten some, “there’s someone for everyone.” That’s when Hedgehog spots a similarly lonely tortoise, rejected due to its “very hard” shell but perfectly matched for a spiky new friend. They race toward each other until the glorious meeting, marked with swoony peach swirls and overjoyed grins. At this point, readers flip the book to hear the same gloomy tale from the tortoise’s perspective until it again culminates in that joyous hug, a book turn that’s made a pleasure with thick creamy paper and solid binding.

Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-571-34875-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Good bedtime reading.

POLAR BEAR ISLAND

Only polar bears are allowed on Polar Bear Island, until Kirby, a friendly, creative penguin, arrives on the scene.

On the verso of the first double-page spread, large white lettering proclaims against an azure sky: “Polar Bear Island was peaceful and predictable. Parker, the mayor, planned to keep it that way.” Below, Parker—paint can in left paw—can be seen facing his sign: “Welcome to Polar Bear Island. No Others Allowed.” On the recto, Kirby floats into view on an ice floe, with hat, scarf, and overstuffed suitcase. When Kirby arrives, Parker grudgingly allows her an overnight stay. However, she soon proves her worth to the other bears; she has invented Flipper Slippers, which keep extremities warm and reverse from skates to snowshoes. Now Kirby is allowed to stay and help the bears make their own Flipper Slippers. When her family shows up with more inventions, Parker feels compelled to give them a week. (Presumably, the penguins have made the 12,430-mile-trip from the South Pole to the North Pole, characterized merely as “a long journey.”) A minor crisis permanently changes Parker’s attitudes about exclusivity. The text is accessible and good fun to read aloud. The weakness of the ostensible theme of granting welcome to newcomers lies in the fact that all the newcomers are immediately, obviously useful to the bears. The cartoonlike, scratchboard-ish graphics are lighthearted and full of anthropomorphic touches.

Good bedtime reading. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2870-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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