Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Finds: Queen of Secrets & The Pillow Book


The "Friday Finds" meme is hosted by MizB at the Should Be Reading blog. She asks "What great books did you hear about / discover this past week? Share with us your FRIDAY FINDS!"

This week I received two review copies of new Jewish-interest YA novels from the publicists at Blue Slip Media, and they look like they'll be a lot of fun t
o read:

Lotus Lowenstein's life is merde. She dreams of moving to Paris and becoming an existentialist. Yet here she is trapped in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with a New-Agey mom, an out-of-work dad, and a chess champion brother who dreams of being a rock star. Merci à Dieu for Lotus’s best friend, Joni, who loves French culture enough to cofound their high school’s first French Club with Lotus. At the first meeting, the cutest boy in the world walks in. His name is Sean, and he too loves French culture and worships Jean-Paul Sartre.
Queen of Secrets by Jenny Meyerhoff (FSG, 2010). I interviewed this author briefly at a party at the Planet Esme Reading Room last summer; you can hear the interview in the episode Planet Esme! The key thing I recall from this interview is that the story is loosely based on The Book of Esther, as was recent adult novel Good for the Jews. A new trend, perhaps?

Here's how the publisher describes Queen of Secrets:

This year, Essie Green’s life is going to be different. She’s made the cheerleading squad and caught the eye of the captain of the football team. However, she didn't expect her estranged cousin to join the football team. Micah is instantly branded a freak for praying during games, and Essie doesn’t want anything to do with him. As the football team’s teasing of Micah shifts into hazing, Essie is forced to make a choice between the boy she might love and the cousin she barely knows.

The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein by Libby Schmais (Delacorte, 2010). Here's how the publisher describes the book:
At first, Lotus thinks Sean is the best thing to happen to her in years. He’s smart, cultured, and adorable. Unfortunately, though, Joni feels the same way. And having an existentialist view of love, Sean sees nothing wrong with enjoying both girls’ affections. Things come to a head when all three depart for Montreal with their teacher, Ms. G, on the French Club’s first official field trip. Will Sean choose Joni over Lotus? And will Lotus and Joni’s friendship ever recover?

And for your viewing pleasure, a book trailer for Pillow Book:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah


I thought it would be seasonally appropriate to share with you the starred review I wrote about The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah for School Library Journal. This is a delightful new Passover story, that I used successfully with several Kindergarten and first grade classes in our religious school recently. For more info about author Leslie Kimmelman and her books, see www.lesliekimmelman.net.


KIMMELMAN, Leslie. The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah. illus. by Paul Meisel. unpaged. glossary. CIP. Holiday House. Mar. 2010. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-8234-1952-4. LC 2008048488.

PreS-Gr 3—This Yiddish-inflected retelling of "The Little Ren Hen" features a balabusta (good homemaker) who kvetches about her lazy no-goodnik friends who will not help her make matzah from wheat. When they show up at the Passover Seder, the hen scolds, "What chutzpah!" Ultimately, however, they repent and the hen forgives them because she is a mensch. All ends happily as they make up for their earlier bad behavior by doing the dishes. The droll ink, watercolor, and pastel cartoon illustrations have a friendly charm that makes a nice contrast with the story's wry humor. The Yiddish vocabulary and speech patterns will have Jewish adults rolling in the aisles, and children will enjoy the merging of familiar Passover and folktale elements. It's entertaining to those in the know, but readers unfamiliar with the holiday may be mystified by the humor, and they will gain little understanding of the traditions of Passover. An endnote on the holiday's history, a matzah recipe, and a glossary round out the package, but the book should be used in combination with more traditional tales or with audiences who already observe Passover. It's a must for Judaica collections and a solid choice for large general collections.—Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Finds: First Rain



The "Friday Finds" meme is hosted by MizB at the Should Be Reading blog. She asks "What great books did you hear about / discover this past week? Share with us your FRIDAY FINDS!"

I just had to participate because this very Friday morning I found a wonderful new book awaiting me in a package on my desk in the library: First Rain by Charlotte Herman, illustrated by Kathryn Mitter (Albert Whitman).




It's a simple, straightforward story about a little girl whose family makes aliyah (moves to Israel). Through the exchange of letters with the Grandma she left behind, we learn a little bit about Israel, a little Hebrew vocabulary, and a little about dealing with moving. It's not preachy, it's a good match with its intended audience of 1st through 4th graders in terms of emotion and writing style, and the illustrations are clean, detailed, and give a good sense of place. As is appropriate for the audience, politics are NOT included.

There are few picture books on the subject of making aliyah, and those of which I'm aware have to do with the airlift operations that rescued Ethiopian Jews. This is the first book I've seen that features a middle-class, non-Orthodox, North American Jewish child making aliyah. As a librarian in a Reform synagogue in South Florida, I know that this book will make sense to the readers I serve. My thanks to Charlotte Herman for filling a niche that so badly needed it!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Scribblers on the Roof


SHOW NOTES:

Scribblers on the Roof is an online forum for Jewish fiction and poetry at jscribes.com. In this interview with founder Kelly Hartog, we get a virtual tour of the website.


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CREDITS:
Produced by: Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel
Supported in part by: Association of Jewish Libraries
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