This tall tale isn’t quite tall enough.

BIG SAM

A ROSH HASHANAH TALL TALE

This holiday story may secretly be a cookbook.

Most of the book doubles as a recipe for challah bread for the Jewish New Year: mix together flour, eggs, and other ingredients. Knead the dough and punch it and let it rise. The quantities, however, are a little odd: “thousands of eggs, and a shovelful of salt.” This is a tall tale, and Big Sam (short for Samson), the title character, is a white Jewish giant. The problem is, for most of the length of the book, the story feels more like a recipe than a tall tale. It’s endearing to see Big Sam use the Grand Canyon as a mixing bowl and bake the bread inside Mount Saint Helens, but the first half of the book doesn’t have a whole lot of conflict—just baking. The drama really starts near the very end, when Sam must clean up the mess he’s made. A pair of eagles begins to scream at him: “You dropped a mountaintop on our forest. You knocked down our trees.” Starr’s paintings of Sam, as he plants new trees and wildflowers, are warm and inviting, and the environmental message is touching, if not subtle. Jewish readers may be grateful for a new, imaginative take on the holiday, but they might also wish it were a bit less repetitive.

This tall tale isn’t quite tall enough. (readers’ guide) (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68115-525-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Apples & Honey Press

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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An uplifting, rhyming picture book offering food for the soul.

A SPOONFUL OF FAITH

A mother teaches her daughter a special recipe to help feed her faith.

Layla, a young, brown-skinned girl, is ready yet nervous for her first day of school. Seeking a confidence boost, she goes in search of her mom—“’Cause mamas can help / when you need love and calm”—and finds her in the kitchen. “Hey, sweetie, sit here / Let’s make a quick meal / that’s full of good things / to help how you feel,” her mother suggests and fishes out a recipe book. The recipe for the meal includes many ingredients, but none of them are tangible. Instead, courage, “a spoonful of faith,” “dashes of kindness,” “handfuls of hope,” “pinches of prayers,” and warm hugs go into the mixing bowl. To concretize these virtues, the artwork uses a visual motif of hearts and flowers. Once the meal is ready, Layla hesitantly looks into the bowl, unsure what to make of the imaginary repast, but a word of wisdom from Mama helps her realize the true source of her emotional sustenance and strength. The illustrations, created using digital watercolor, pencil, and gouache brushes in Procreate, are soothing, with soft pastel colors. While God is mentioned, there are no references to any specific religion.

An uplifting, rhyming picture book offering food for the soul. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-301781-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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With a universal message of love and community, this book offers a beautiful representation of a too-often-overlooked...

MOMMY'S KHIMAR

From a debut author-and-illustrator team comes a glimpse into a young American Muslim girl’s family and community as she walks around in “Mommy’s khimar,” or headscarf.

The star of this sunny picture book is a young girl who finds joy in wearing her mother’s khimar, imagining it transforms her into a queen, a star, a mama bird, a superhero. At the core of the story is the love between the girl and her mother. The family appears to be African-American, with brown skin and textured hair. The girl’s braids and twists “form a bumpy crown” under the khimar, which smells of coconut oil and cocoa butter. Adults in her life delight in her appearance in the bright yellow khimar, including her Arabic teacher at the mosque, who calls it a “hijab,” and her grandmother, who visits after Sunday service and calls out “Sweet Jesus!” as she scoops her granddaughter into her arms. Her grandmother is, apparently, a Christian, but “We are a family and we love each other just the same.” The illustrations feature soft pastel colors with dynamic lines and gently patterned backgrounds that complement the story’s joyful tone. The words are often lyrical, and the story artfully includes many cultural details that will delight readers who share the cheerful protagonist’s culture and enlighten readers who don’t.

With a universal message of love and community, this book offers a beautiful representation of a too-often-overlooked cultural group . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0059-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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