A Different Kind of Passover by Linda Leopold-Strauss

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A DIFFERENT KIND OF PASSOVER
Written by Linda Leopold-Strauss
Illustrated by Jeremy Tugeau
(Kar-Ben; Hardcover, $17.99;
Paperback, $7.99; eBook, $6.99, Ages 4-9)

 

Cover image of grandpa in bed from A Different Kind of Passover by Linda Leopold-Strauss

 

Any child who has ever celebrated a holiday when someone special couldn’t attend will relate to        A Different Kind of Passover. But even those who haven’t will appreciate the sentiments expressed and the lovely twist author Linda Leopold-Strauss has added in this heartwarming story I’m delighted to share.

Grandpa is sick and has just come back home from the hospital. That means the Passover seder will be different this year and narrator Jessica wonders how that will change things, especially now that she’s going to ask the Four Questions in Hebrew. And since she’s finding it hard to imagine a seder without Grandpa, Jessica soon realizes it doesn’t have to be that way. Grandpa may be nearby tucked in bed, and wearing pajamas, but how convenient that “… Grandpa’s door opens to the dining room?” notes an enthused Jessica. When Grandpa questions his participation in such attire, Grandma remarks, “Does God care if you’re in your pajamas?” The plan is hatched and the seder will take place  with most things remaining the same as always and just a few things different like Grandpa reclining in bed and cousin Mark “getting to sip sweet wine instead of grape juice, since he has just had his bar mitzvah.”

The joy of family and tradition in this story is wonderfully conveyed through Tugeau’s muted illustrations. I love the varied perspectives he shares, especially the ones where we know it’s Grandpa looking out on his family seated around the dining room table. Nothing says everyone must be in the same room for a seder so when Jessica comes up with the great idea to include Grandpa by leaving his bedroom door open, it’s symbolic in so many meaningful ways. Leopold-Strauss has created a sweet and thoughtfully written seder story that will resonate with young readers for years to come.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Best Hanukkah Books 2016 – A Roundup

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BEST CHILDREN’S BOOKS FOR HANUKKAH
A Roundup by Ronna Mandel

 

Hanukkah Delight!
Hanukkah Delight by Leslea Newman book coverWritten by Lesléa Newman
Illustrated by Amy Husband
(Kar-Ben; $5.99, Ages 1-4)

An array of adorable animals including a bunny family celebrate Hanukkah in this cheerfully illustrated 12-page board book. Hanukkah Delight! offers a rollicking rhyming read for the littlest ones on your holiday list as it details all the joyous events leading up to and during the Festival of Lights such as:
Friends and neighbors to invite, 
Ancient blessings we recite.
Gleaming candles burning bright,
Crispy latkes taste just right.

 

A Hanukkah With MazelA Hanukkah With Mazel by Joel Edward Epstein
Written by Joel Edward Stein
Illustrated by Elisa Vavouri
(Kar-Ben; $17.99 Hardcover, $7.99 Paperback, $6.99 eBook, Ages 3-8)

Debut picture book author, Joel Edward Stein, introduces readers to Misha, a kindly but poor artist who discovers a hungry cat in his barn that he names Mazel (Hebrew/Yiddish meaning luck). Misha share the little bit of milk he has with his new feline friend and together the companions celebrate the start of Hanukkah. Despite having no money to Hanukkah candles, the artist comes up with a clever way to light the menorah. He’ll paint the candles on a canvas! Soon he even runs low on paints, but not before reaching the eighth and final night of the holiday. Just then a peddler arrives and, as fate would have it, he turns out to be Mazel’s owner. But rather than reclaim his pet, this beneficent traveling merchant has a plan to make everyone happy while delivering some much needed Hanukkah luck. Vavouri’s watercolor illustrations, convey a folkloric feel while also accurately depicting Misha’s hand-to-mouth existence in an old Eastern European Jewish community called Grodno. Written with care, A Hanukkah With Mazel is flawless storytelling that is beautifully presented. It’s not only heartwarming with its surprise happy ending, but certain to become a timeless treasure for families to return to every holiday season.

Yitzi and the Giant Menorah cover imageYitzi and the Giant Menorah
Written and illustrated by Richard Ungar
(Tundra Books; $16.99, Ages 5-9)

The townspeople of Chelm, a storied village from Jewish folklore, wonder how they should properly thank the Mayor of Lublin after receiving the gift of a giant menorah on Hanukkah eve. Although everyone seems to have an idea that befits the prestige of mayor, nothing ends up turning out well. Latkes that are cooked for the mayor get eaten before they’re even given to him, pristine Chelm snow melts into water, and a beautifully carved dreidel points Yitzi’s father Avrum in the wrong direction so that he never makes it to Lublin! While all this is playing out over the first seven nights of Hanukkah, no one is paying attention to Yitzi who believes he has figured out the ideal way to thank the Mayor. When at last all options are exhausted, Yitzi’s thoughtful idea is a treat for everyone to behold, especially the Mayor of Lublin. There, atop a steep hill, the frail old man had to stop when he heard music floating in the air from afar and dancing lights shone in the night sky. “Something on a distant hill filled his heart with joy.” Between the easy to follow story (its variety of interesting characters makes it a terrific read-aloud) and the vibrant water color and colored pencil artwork, Yitzi and the Giant Menorah is a welcome addition to the Hanukkah books available for families to enjoy.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

For your tweens, don’t miss my review of Dreidels on the Brain, another great read to buy this year.


Best Hanukkah Books Roundup

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BEST HANUKKAH BOOKS ROUNDUP

Hanukkah arrives early again this year and so it’s time for our annual Hannukah books roundup featuring our faves for you to share with your children. All these books make great gifts, too, so why not give the gift of a wonderful story?


NONNA’S HANUKKAH SURPRISE
NonnasHanukkahSurprise by Karen Fisman with illustrations by Martha Avilés (Kar-Ben; $17.99 hardcover, $7.99 paperback, Ages 3-8)
This simple, seemingly straightforward Hanukkah story of girl gets Hanukkah Menorah (aka hanukkiyah), girl loses Hanukkah Menorah, girl gets new Hanukkah Menorah has several super, smile-producing twists. For one thing, Rachel’s haukkiyah is made up of 9 female Maccabees instead of males, and this year, Rachel’s Hanukkah celebration will be away from home, with Nonna, her Italian grandma. I love how Fisman’s put a 21st century spin on this charming Hanukkah tale of today’s typical blended family where one parent is Jewish and the other is not.  Rachel worries she won’t be celebrating Hanukkah at Nonna’s who celebrates Christmas, but her mom’s made sure to bring everything along including dreidels, candles, and traditional Hanukkah gelt so that the Festival of Lights will be just like at home. But when Rachel leaves her Maccabees menorah on the airplane, it’s Nonna and her sweet surprise that saves the day in this heartwarming tale of acceptance, respect, and a grandma’s love that knows no religion, only devotion to her granddaughter.

IS IT HANUKKAH YET?IsItHanukkahYet by Chris Barash with illustrations by Alessandra Psacharopulo
(Albert Whitman & Company; $16.99, Ages 4-8)
Like its predecessor, Is it Passover Yet?, Is it Hanukkah Yet? in under 200 words, successfully creates a holiday mood with its festive artwork and joyous tale. This picture book opens with a snowy scene of nature.
“When frosty winds blow and snow’s all around
And there’s no sign of green on the trees or the ground.
Hanukkah is on its way.”
Barash and Psacharopulo take us from the bucolic outdoors as animals gear up for the long winter to the indoors as a family makes their preparations for the arrival of family, friends and the joyous eight night long celebration of Hanukkah. From stirring, frying and baking traditional Haunkkah foods, to the lighting of colored candles “When the blessings are said and the first candles glow” to the singing of songs and playing dreidel, the small pleasures of the beloved Festival of Lights can be found and enjoyed on every page of this lovely book.

HanukkahisComing

HANUKKAH IS COMING! by Tracy Newman with illustrations by Viviana Garofoli
(Kar-Ben; $5.99, Ages 1-4)
From Hanukkah is coming! to Hurray! Hanukkah is here!, this 12 page board book with its gentle rhyme and repeating phrase, serves as a perfect introduction to the holiday for young children and builds anticipation. A brother, sister and silly dog mention all the special things they love and look forward to about Hanukkah. Whether it’s cooking latkes that “Hiss, sizzle, pop,” or spinning the dreidel with its nun, gimel, hay and shin, Hanukkah is coming and that’s something to get excited about!

 

SammySpidersfirstTasteof Hanukkah


SAMMY SPIDER’S FIRST TASTE OF HANUKKAH: A COOKBOOK
 by Sylvia A. Rouss and Genene Levy Turndorf with illustrations by Katherine Janus Kahn
(Kar-Ben; $16.99 hardcover, $7.99 paperback, Ages 2-8)
Making his 15th appearance, “Sammy Spider dangled from his web as Mr. Shapiro told Josh the story of the Maccabees and the miracle of the oil.” While spiders don’t celebrate the holiday,  Sammy could certainly watch as all the cooking began! In this latest installation of the anthropomorphic arachnid, we get a helpful intro, and recipes divided into sections of Simple Snacks, Miracle Meals (LOVE the Maccabee and Cheese), Tasty Treats (check out Melt-in-Your-Mouth Menorahs), Crafty Ideas (salt dough Hanukkah decorations are a personal fave) plus a section on Lighting the Menorah and Hanukkah Blessings. This is a terrific hands-on book for families this holiday season and definitely one to hang onto for years to come.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel #Readukkah

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Talia and the Very Yum Kippur by Linda Elovitz Marshall

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TALIA AND THE VERY YUM KIPPUR
Written by Linda Elovitz Marshall
Illustrated by Francesca Assirelli
(Kar-Ben Publishing; Hardcover, $17.99; Paperback, $7.99, Ages 3-8)

 

TaliaYumKippurcvr.jpg

When I was a little girl, probably the same age as the main character in Talia and the Very Yum Kippur, I always thought that Yom Kippur was actually called “Yum” Kippur, at least that’s how everyone in my family pronounced this most holy of Jewish holidays. So, I couldn’t believe it’s taken this long for someone to write a “pun-driven story of misheard words and malapropisms” like this “Yum” Kippur themed story, but I’m glad that at last someone has!

Author Linda Elovitz Marshall who, according to this picture book’s jacket flap, “raised her four children, a small flock of sheep, … on a farm in a historic farmhouse overlooking the Hudson River in upstate New York,” has chosen a similar setting for this charming tale. Only this farm’s inhabitants are Talia’s grandparents. Talia happily helps her grandmother prepare the food for the traditional Break Fast, a meal beginning at sundown immediately following a 24 hour fast of atonement by those over age 13.

The whole time Talia’s helping her grandmother, she’s thinking that the food-in-the-works is for breakfast, the morning meal, having misunderstand the correct name of the holiday. Talia’s confusion begins early on in the story and deliciously builds which will keep children turning the pages to see how everything works out. Who can blame a little girl for eagerly awaiting what she hopes will be the “Yum” Kippur breakfast of scrumptious kugel along with all the other tasty dishes?

The best part about Talia and the Very Yum Kippur is that, in addition to the humor of the play on words, Marshall introduces young readers to the meaning of this important holiday “… when Jews fast and pray and think about how to be better people.” While we fast, we take the time to think about our transgressions and pray for forgiveness. After learning this from her grandmother, Talia digs deep and apologizes for a lamp she had broken but had blamed on her doll. Grandma, too, asks for forgiveness for having yelled at her granddaughter upon seeing the broken lamp.

Assirelli serves up a selection of gorgeous folkish-looking spreads that pair beautifully with Marshall’s prose. Since Yom Kippur is in the fall, the artist has chosen autumn hues to pepper the pages making this special season come alive.

“Thanks to Talia and her grandmother, they all enjoyed a very sweet YUM Kippur.” And speaking of sweet, don’t miss the yummy recipe for Talia’s YUM Kippur Kugel included in the back matter!

 

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 


Best Children’s Books for Holocaust Remembrance Day 2015

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We recommend these fine children’s books to share on
International Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) and everyday.

ABagofMarblescvrA Bag of Marbles: The Graphic Novel by Joseph Joffo, Kris, & Vincent Bailly (Kar-Ben; Paperback $9.95, Ages 12-18). In 1941 Paris, two Jewish brothers must flee together to the free zone. The journey is dangerous, and safely escaping the Nazis will demand the boys’ level-headedness, courage and ability to lie about being Jewish. Based on the bestselling true story of Joseph Joffo. A must-read for middle school and high schoolers studying the Holocaust. Detailed artwork is moving and skillful.

Let The Celebrations Begin! A Story of Hope for the LiberationLetTheCelebrationsBegincvr by Margaret Wild with illustrations by Julie Vivas (Candlewick Press; $16.99, Ages 7-10). Also based on a true account, this picture book idea grew out of the author’s reading about stuffed toys “Polish women in Belsen made for the first children’s party after liberation.” Wild’s moving story brings humanity to what was a dehumanizing situation in the concentration camps and tells of hope and renewal where there had once only been death.

Marcel Marceau: Master of MimeMarcelMarceauMasterofMimecvr by Gloria Spielman and illustrated by Manon Gauthier (Kar-Ben; $17.95, ages 8-11). There are many mimes, but there is only one Marcel Marceau. In Spielman’s compelling children’s biography complemented by subtle artwork from Gauthier, we learn of Marceau’s early inspiration, the silent film star Charlie Chaplin, as well as his childhood growing up in Strasbourg, France, close to the German border.

The son of a Jewish kosher butcher, Marceau and his older brother Alain fled to Limoges when, on September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland and the French government ordered the people of Strasbourg to leave their city. Helping a cousin in the Resistance, Marceau, on numerous occasions, also helped children escape across the border into Switzerland.

 

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel


Goldie Takes a Stand!: Golda Meir’s First Crusade

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Goldie Takes a Stand!: Golda Meir’s First Crusade, (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2014, $17.95, Ages 5-9) by Barbara Krasner and illustrated by Kelsey Garrity-Riley, is reviewed by Dornel Cerro.

thumbnail.aspBarbara Krasner, author and blogger, has always had a passion for Jewish history. She has combined this passion with an interest in writing children’s books and has selected a dynamic subject for her first children’s nonfiction book, Goldie Takes a Stand!: Golda Meir’s First Crusade.

In early 20th century Milwaukee, nine year old Goldie Mabowehz, became concerned when poor immigrant classmates could not afford school books. Determined to help, she created the American Young Sisters Society and “ … naturally appointed [her]self president.”

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Interior artwork from Goldie Takes a Stand!: Golda Meir’s First Crusade by Barbara Krasner and illustrated by Kelsey Garrity-Riley, Kar-Ben Publishing, 2014.

But how could she and her friends raise the money? Efforts such as charging her mother’s grocery store customers a little extra, naturally failed. Giving up something she loved (candy) saved her a penny, but it wasn’t enough. Never wavering in her determination, she persuaded a local hall owner to let her use his hall for a community-wide fundraiser. Free. Amazingly, he agreed and she and her group organized a successful event, collecting enough money for school book purchases.

Krasner’s upbeat and gently humorous, first person narrative makes the story intimate and accessible to young children, helping them to empathize with Goldie’s determination to improve her classmates’ situation. While the conversations are fictionalized, the event is true. Krasner’s bibliography includes the primary sources she referred to, other resources, and an end note. Illustrator Kelsey Garrity-Riley’s interest in collecting old objects paid off and her charming and quaint gouache and collage illustrations, digitally enhanced, recreate authentic early 20th century urban life (check out the wall paper!).

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Interior artwork from Goldie Takes a Stand!: Golda Meir’s First Crusade by Barbara Krasner and illustrated by Kelsey Garrity-Riley, Kar-Ben Publishing, 2014.

Have you figured out who Goldie is? Well, she grew up to become Israel’s fourth Prime Minister, Golda Meir (1969-1974). Krasner demonstrates that, early on, Meir displayed great leadership qualities: vision, courage, determination, and collaboration. Recommended for children ages 5-9, this inspirational book could be used by teachers and librarians as an introduction to biography. For those involved in project-based learning, character education, and community service, pair this up with Kids Who Are Changing the World (see Cerro’s Thursday, Aug. 21st review on this blog) for discussions on affecting social change and brainstorming projects children may want to undertake. Watch the YouTube book trailer below, accompanied by the uplifting strains of the Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem. http://youtu.be/pQ4qJh2Bup8


Ziggy’s Big Idea by Ilana Long

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Ziggy’s Big Idea written by Ilana Long and illustrated by Rasa Joni (Kar-Ben Publishing; 2014; $17.95; Ages 5-9)  is reviewed today by Rita Zobayan. I like bagels, especially mixed orange and cranberry, but I don’t know anything about them really.

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Ziggy’s BIG Idea by Ilana Long with illustrations by Rasa Joni, Kar-Ben Publishing, 2014.

Ziggy’s Big Idea presents one interpretation of the bagel’s origin. Ziggy is an inventive young boy, full of ideas, such as a square ball that doesn’t roll into the street. However, his ideas don’t always work out quite as Ziggy hopes. Just read about Rabbi Levi and the “shulstilts” that Ziggy made so that the Rabbi can “see the congregation over the bimah.” Ziggy’s father works in the bakery. So when the baker’s customers complain that “the buns are undercooked at the center,” Ziggy is determined to help! Will he be of use or just get in the way?

This informative read has additional resources, including a bagel recipe and theories on the bagel’s humble beginnings. It also presents life in a shtetl and uses Yiddish words and phrases. The artwork is full of interesting details, such as storks nesting on chimneys and era décor. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go get a bagel at my local handy drive-thru bagel shop.

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Interior spread from Ziggy’s BIG Idea by Ilana Long with illustrations by Rasa Joni, Kar-Ben Publishing, ©2014.

Visit www.karben.com for up-to-date details on highly reviewed and award winning titles from Kar-Ben Publishing and visit ebooks.karben.com to purchase and instantly download Kar-Ben books!