A mediocre, bland offering for the holiday shelf.

READ REVIEW

A WATERMELON IN THE SUKKAH

A child’s favorite fruit creates a challenge for his class when it comes time for the annual ritual of decorating the classroom’s Sukkah, the traditional outdoor hut for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

Michael arrives at school with a choice fruit, following his teacher’s request to bring in a favorite one. As the children prepare to hang their bananas, pears, grapes and oranges, Michael realizes that his large, round, heavy watermelon will be difficult to suspend, as is the custom, from the open-air latticed roof of the Sukkah. Ideas abound: a basket of sorts could be made from lots of string, or rubber bands, or tape….Disappointed but not discouraged, Michael tries a hammock-style approach made from a large piece of fabric and four hooks, and to everyone’s surprise, it works. Perhaps a pumpkin will be next? Stock cartoon faces dominate the colorful gouache paintings of a Judaic school. The story, too, feels dutiful rather than inspired, an off-the-shelf plot to fill a niche rather than a meaningful celebration of this joyous holiday.

A mediocre, bland offering for the holiday shelf. (note) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7613-8118-1

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history.

THE SCARECROW

Ferry and the Fans portray a popular seasonal character’s unlikely friendship.

Initially, the protagonist is shown in his solitary world: “Scarecrow stands alone and scares / the fox and deer, / the mice and crows. / It’s all he does. It’s all he knows.” His presence is effective; the animals stay outside the fenced-in fields, but the omniscient narrator laments the character’s lack of friends or places to go. Everything changes when a baby crow falls nearby. Breaking his pole so he can bend, the scarecrow picks it up, placing the creature in the bib of his overalls while singing a lullaby. Both abandon natural tendencies until the crow learns to fly—and thus departs. The aabb rhyme scheme flows reasonably well, propelling the narrative through fall, winter, and spring, when the mature crow returns with a mate to build a nest in the overalls bib that once was his home. The Fan brothers capture the emotional tenor of the seasons and the main character in their panoramic pencil, ballpoint, and digital compositions. Particularly poignant is the close-up of the scarecrow’s burlap face, his stitched mouth and leaf-rimmed head conveying such sadness after his companion goes. Some adults may wonder why the scarecrow seems to have only partial agency, but children will be tuned into the problem, gratified by the resolution.

A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247576-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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A good choice to share with wriggly listeners, who will soon be joining in.

AT THE OLD HAUNTED HOUSE

A Halloween book that rides on the rhythms of “Over in the Meadow.”

Although Halloween rhyming counting books abound, this stands out, with a text that begs to be read aloud and cartoony digital illustrations that add goofy appeal. A girl and two boys set off on Halloween night to go trick-or-treating. As the children leave the cozy, warm glow of their street, readers see a haunted house on a hill, with gravestones dotting the front yard. Climbing the twisty path to the dark estate takes time, so the story turns to the antics inside the house. “At the old haunted house in a room with no sun / lived a warty green witch and her wee witch one. ‘SPELL!’ cried the witch. ‘POOF!’ cried the one. / And they both practiced spells in the room with no sun.” The actions of the scary creatures within may seem odd, but the rhyme must go on: Cats scratch, goblins dust, monsters stir, and mummies mix. Eventually the three kids reach the front door and are invited in for stew, cake and brew. At first shocked by the gruesome fare, the children recover quickly and get caught up in partying with the slightly spooky but friendly menagerie.

A good choice to share with wriggly listeners, who will soon be joining in. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4778-4769-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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