A nostalgic glimpse at a little-known but rich culture within the broader Jewish American community.



A young Cuban American girl learns the real meaning of home in this poignant story drawing on the real-life history of Cuba’s Sephardic Jews.

Estrella loves to visit her aunt, Tía Fortuna, in her little pink house at the Seaway in Miami. Tía Fortuna once lived “on the other side of the sea, in Havana,” Cuba. When she “had to leave” her home (a closing author’s note pinpoints the Cuban Revolution as the cause), she took only a suitcase of old photographs, her mezuzah (prayer scroll) from her doorpost, and “a key to a home gone forever.” Now, years later, she must move once again, this time to an assisted living facility. While Estrella spends time with her aunt at the seaside and helps her pack, she listens to her life stories, learns about the cultural and religious significance of her most prized possessions, and ultimately learns that, like her ancestors, she can find hope wherever life takes her. This heartfelt intergenerational story illuminates a lesser-known facet of Jewish American immigration. Ladino (i.e., Judeo-Spanish) words are seamlessly integrated into the dialogue between aunt and niece, and Behar weaves Sephardic symbols and traditions into the narrative. For example, Tía Fortuna wears a lucky-eye bracelet (a Sephardic Jewish talisman) and serves borekas (a Sephardic Jewish pastry). Detailed paintings, rendered in gouache, watercolor, and color pencil with digital finishing, skillfully move the visual narrative between the past and the present. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A nostalgic glimpse at a little-known but rich culture within the broader Jewish American community. (glossary) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-17241-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers.


From the Infamous Ratsos series , Vol. 1

Two little rats decide to show the world how tough they are, with unpredictable results.

Louie and Ralphie Ratso want to be just like their single dad, Big Lou: tough! They know that “tough” means doing mean things to other animals, like stealing Chad Badgerton’s hat. Chad Badgerton is a big badger, so taking that hat from him proves that Louie and Ralphie are just as tough as they want to be. However, it turns out that Louie and Ralphie have just done a good deed instead of a bad one: Chad Badgerton had taken that hat from little Tiny Crawley, a mouse, so when Tiny reclaims it, they are celebrated for goodness rather than toughness. Sadly, every attempt Louie and Ralphie make at doing mean things somehow turns nice. What’s a little boy rat supposed to do to be tough? Plus, they worry about what their dad will say when he finds out how good they’ve been. But wait! Maybe their dad has some other ideas? LaReau keeps the action high and completely appropriate for readers embarking on chapter books. Each of the first six chapters features a new, failed attempt by Louie and Ralphie to be mean, and the final, seventh chapter resolves everything nicely. The humor springs from their foiled efforts and their reactions to their failures. Myers’ sprightly grayscale drawings capture action and characters and add humorous details, such as the Ratsos’ “unwelcome” mat.

A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers. (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7636-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.


Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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