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

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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Nevertheless, it fills a gap in the marketplace, hopefully paving the way for stronger fare.

SAM AND CHARLIE (AND SAM TOO!)

Not even the worthy subject matter can overcome the herky-jerky writing in this rare glimpse into everyday Jewish life.

Over four short chapters, a boy and a girl become good friends in spite of misunderstandings. When Sam overhears that the new kid next door is named Charlie, he’s initially thrilled to find a playmate. To his surprise, he discovers that both Charlie and her little sister Sam (or “Sam Too”) are girls. That makes little difference, though, since Charlie’s a stellar buddy. The chapter on “Sharing” tests that new friendship when both Sam and Charlie crave the last prune hamentaschen. They’re closer after Sam aims to cheer up Charlie on “Sick Day,” but “The Bad Haircut” undoes that good with a callous comment. Finally on “I’m Sorry Day,” aka Yom Kippur, the two apologize, and hilarity ensues. The text’s level of difficulty is ideal for the emerging reader taking baby steps into chapter books, but even the great subject matter (the everyday lives of Jewish kids) can’t make up for abrupt transitions between those chapters, lines like “Friendship is the best medicine,” and odd lessons on losing on purpose to keep a friendship going. Tambellini’s illustrations complement the action beautifully but cannot save the weak writing.

Nevertheless, it fills a gap in the marketplace, hopefully paving the way for stronger fare. (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8075-7213-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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A simplified—if not simplistic—conversation starter.

SNOW FOR EVERYONE!

Three children argue about where the snow comes from and who it belongs to, learning that they can share and enjoy together.

One rare snowy day in Jerusalem, Samir, Mira, and Rafi are playing but fall to arguing over how to “divide up the precious snow.” They each decide to find out where it comes from and who owns it. Samir runs to the mosque to ask the imam; Mira goes to the church looking for the priest; and Rafi, to the synagogue to query the rabbi. Each child takes some snow with them only to discover when they reach their chosen authority that it has melted. The children’s squabble is clearly a metaphor for the conflicts that arise among the region’s different ethnic groups; Mira even draws a border. Schneider’s text mentions soldiers, traders, worshippers, pilgrims, and tourists but doesn’t delve into the region’s complexities. Using gold and blue tones, Chang portrays the many different people moving through the city and the clothes and carpets displayed in the market. An unattended, fedora-clad camel strikes an odd note. Controversially, the people appear to live in peaceful coexistence, but this is not an everyday reality in divided Jerusalem. The book does not supply context necessary for readers unfamiliar with the conflict to understand such details as Mira’s border or that a war over the territories has gone on for years.

A simplified—if not simplistic—conversation starter. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4320-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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