In this ambitious and unusual oversized volume, eight episodes from Jewish history are experienced through the eyes of child witnesses. Each chapter begins with a brief description of a complex topic, such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, the false Messiah, Kristallnacht, and the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. After each of the histories, a child living through the events offers a lyrical first-person account (in Hesse’s trademark free verse) of a muted Hanukkah celebration. More often than not, there are only oblique references to the events in the narrative. The Kristallnacht episode tells of a Hanukkah table on which Papa’s book is placed. An italicized line following the narrative tells the reader that the narrator, David, hid while his brothers and father were taken away on Kristallnacht. The metaphor of the Jewish people as a flame that is inextinguishable against all odds unifies the stories. Pinkney’s bold paint and scratchboard illustrations also emphasize the theme of light and flame. (Picture book/nonfiction. 10+)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7868-0619-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2003

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In a snowbound Swiss village, Matti figures it’s a good day to make a gingerbread man. He and his mother mix a batch of gingerbread and tuck it in the oven, but Matti is too impatient to wait ten minutes without peeking. When he opens the door, out pops a gingerbread baby, taunting the familiar refrain, “Catch me if you can.” The brash imp races all over the village, teasing animals and tweaking the noses of the citizenry, until there is a fair crowd on his heels intent on giving him a drubbing. Always he remains just out of reach as he races over the winterscape, beautifully rendered with elegant countryside and architectural details by Brett. All the while, Matti is busy back home, building a gingerbread house to entice the nervy cookie to safe harbor. It works, too, and Matti is able to spirit the gingerbread baby away from the mob. The mischief-maker may be a brat, but the gingerbread cookie is also the agent of good cheer, and Brett allows that spirit to run free on these pages. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23444-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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Disappointingly fails to coalesce.


Sometimes the scariest thing is growing up.

Halloween-loving Esther, who is implied Ashkenazi Jewish and White, has had her bat mitzvah, which makes her an adult in religious terms, but she’s not ready to let go of trick-or-treating, even when her parents say otherwise. She’s also not ready to move on to high school or to do anything about her feelings for her best friend, Agustín, whose name may cue him as Latinx. But when the Queen of Halloween freezes their neighborhood in permanent Halloween, Esther finds herself reconsidering the value of forward momentum. Fink, of Welcome to Night Vale podcast fame, tries to do a lot with his creepy premise, but heavy-handed, meaning-laden passages—for example, digressions about neighbors as Esther and friends flee through yards chased by a villain flinging razor-bristling apples—slow the pace to a crawl and leave little for the reader to discover. Esther is joined in her fight against the Halloween Queen (who has sent the adults into a magical Dream and stolen the children) by Agustín; Korean American Christian bully Sasha; and seemingly boring, default White dentist Mr. Gabler, all of whom serve as foils for Esther’s emotional growth as she learns to see past the surface. This reads like two books uneasily combined: one about growing up and discovering people’s value and the other a horror story with a fantastic sense of place and some wonderfully shivery (and not entirely resolved) details.

Disappointingly fails to coalesce. (Horror. 11-14)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-302097-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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