Modern Jewish history lives through the moving voice of one participant.

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YOSEF'S DREAM

A dream to return to their Jewish homeland becomes a reality for Ethiopian Jews.

As the narrator watches his brother become a bar mitzvah at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, he remembers his childhood in Ethiopia and the journey to their homeland, Israel. For generations, Yosef tells readers, Jews in Ethiopia believed that they “were the only Jews left in the world!” In his reminiscence, Yosef leaves his mother and sister to take food to his father and brother working in their fields before heading to school. He falls into a deep hole and cannot climb out. In a folkloric turn, Gazelle comes to him in a dream and promises him mountaintop visions of “far-off places.” Hyena then promises meals “of the scraps of others.” Finally, Eagle swoops down and promises him a flight to a new home. When he finally arrives at school, an Israeli official announces that they “can return to the land God gave to the Jews.” Preparations are made, and Yosef’s family boards the eagle, as foretold in Isaiah (40:31)—only now it is an airplane. An author’s note informs readers that in 1991, co-author Naim, the Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia, did in fact organize Operation Solomon, bringing home thousands of Ethiopian Jews. Blumenfeld’s colorful illustrations give the dark-skinned people and the animals personality and set the location memorably.

Modern Jewish history lives through the moving voice of one participant. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68115-506-7

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Apples & Honey Press

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Haunting and beautiful.

LILAH TOV GOOD NIGHT

As the sun sets and the moon rises, an unnamed young child says good night to everything in the natural landscape.

In the simple, brief, descriptive text the child calls out, “Lilah Tov,” to hens and roosters, bears and bats, beaches and waves, clouds and stars, fish and birds, mountains and streams. There is no other narrative, at least not in words. Naggan’s lush, detailed, soft-edged landscapes provide another, deeper, and more nuanced level to the proceedings. “Lilah tov” means “good night” in Hebrew, and there is a menorah on the windowsill, indicating that this family is Jewish. By dress and household appearance, they seem to be living in the late 19th or early 20th century. After a simple meal, they pack their belongings and leave their small rural home. The protagonist is saying good night to the creatures and places spotted on what readers will see as a lengthy journey. Beneath a full moon a man rows them across a body of water, and the journey continues on the other side. At the end of their travels there is a new home awaiting them. They travel quietly and surreptitiously, but there is no explanation within the text of where they are and why they leave. Are they refugees escaping something dreadful? Each young reader will interpret the work differently depending on individual understanding and knowledge of history, or perhaps with a wise adult to help.

Haunting and beautiful. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4066-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Judy is a force for change. Lovely.

JUDY LED THE WAY

Judy Kaplan loves to ask all kinds of questions.

Scattered on the pages as if they are written notes, many of her questions are profound and posed to her rabbi father concerning beliefs and traditions of Judaism, even the existence of God. She is particularly disturbed that during services in the synagogue, women sit separately from men, no women read from the Torah, and only boys become bar mitzvah when they turn 13. It is the 1920s, and women in the United States have both recently won the right to vote and are working at jobs once held only by men. Women are even driving cars. Judy is completely surprised when her father announces that there will be changes in his synagogue. With fears of failure and ridicule, and with only one day to study and practice, 12-year-old Judy will become bat mitzvah. She will read a portion of the Torah and sing the blessings at the Saturday morning services. She carries it off beautifully and earns the approval of the whole congregation. Basing her story on true events and with personal knowledge of the Kaplan family, Sasso tells the tale in straightforward, direct syntax, with a hint of admiration. Lucas’ strongly hued illustrations enhance the text and provide carefully delineated images of time, place, and Jewish traditions. Readers who are not familiar with these traditions might need some additional explanations. Judy, her family, and the congregation are all depicted with pale skin.

Judy is a force for change. Lovely. (author’s note, biographical note) (Picture book/religion. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68115-559-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Apples & Honey Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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