Continuing her tributes to the seasons, Pfeffer explores spring in her latest science/history title. Beginning with the signs and activities that herald spring’s arrival, there is a short explanation of the spring equinox. Following this are succinct and interesting explanations of how various peoples throughout the world commemorate this day and the historical origins of their celebrations. The holidays include the Chinese New Year, No Ruz in Iran, Holi in India, Maslenitsa in Russia, the Jewish Passover, the Christian Easter as well as explanations of what the Maya in Mexico and the Cree in America did to mark the spring equinox. Several pages of spring crafts and recipes follow the text, along with a list of print and online resources. Bleck’s bright colors sing of spring, and she masterfully brings other cultures to life, capturing the essential parts of each celebration. Unfortunately, in the one illustration depicting the earth in its path around the sun, the seasons are labeled incorrectly: The North Pole is pointing away from the sun during the “summer solstice.” Still, with a corrected picture replacing this one page, this could be a valuable seasonal resource, as are the two previous (and correct) titles about winter and fall. (Picture book/nonfiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-525-47874-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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This Hanukkah story about a family’s ritual reenactment of Grandma and great-aunt Rose’s Hanukkah spent at Buchenwald many years ago during the “bad time” propounds a disturbing view of the Holocaust. Grandma and great-aunt Rose demonstrate to the family how they hollowed out a potato stolen from the kitchen at the camp, filled it with a dab of stolen margarine, made a wick from a piece of thread, and lit a candle to commemorate the holiday. Popp’s (Sister Anne’s Hands, 1998) realistic drawings of the celebration are soft and subtly colored, reflecting the family’s warmth and closeness, while the drawings of the camp are ghostly in sepia tones. Afterwards the whole family steps outside to look at the Hanukkah lights through the window and drink a toast to life. The disturbing piece is Grandpa’s comment that “The Germans didn’t like a lot of people. It wasn’t only the Jews.” For many, this is a deeply offensive statement, implying as it does that the Jews were not singled out by Hitler and the Germans for the very specific goal of total destruction. Even in the context of human history, the single-mindedness, efficiency, and technological resources put to the task make Hitler’s war against the Jews exceptional. Grandpa’s comment would be problematic in any event, but out of the mouth of the husband of a Holocaust survivor it is troubling indeed. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-060-28115-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2002

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It breaks no new ground, but even the worms are smiling.



One empty lot needs two helping hands, three days of cleanup, and so on to become a community garden “full of delicious!”

In, mostly, aerial or elevated views, Vidal’s bright, painted illustrations track the lot’s transformation from a (tidy-looking, admittedly) dumping ground behind a rusty chain-link fence. Echoing the multiethnic and multiracial nature of the group of neighbors who gather to do the work (white-presenting figures are in the minority), the eventual crops include bok choy, collard greens, and kittley along with beans, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes—all of which end up incorporated in the climactic spread into a community dinner spread out on tables among the planting boxes. Typically of such garden-themed picture-book tributes, the spirit of community and joy at the eventual bounty elbow out any real acknowledgement of the necessary sweat equity (there’s not even a glancing reference to weeding here, for instance) or the sense of an entire season’s passing between planting and harvest. Also, as that public feast is created by considerably more than “Ten newfound friends,” the counting is just a conceit. Mullen closes with notes on the actual garden in Minneapolis that inspired her and on making gardens bee-friendly.

It breaks no new ground, but even the worms are smiling. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-58089-889-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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