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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Fans of this popular series will find this a rewarding addition to family Easter celebrations.

GOD GAVE US EASTER

From the God Gave Us You series

Bergren and Bryant attempt to explain Easter to young children in a gentle, nonthreatening manner, with partial success.

When Little Cub questions her father about Easter, Papa Bear explains the religious significance of the holiday in various symbolic ways to his cub. He uses familiar things from their world, such as an egg and a fallen tree, to draw parallels with aspects of the Christian story. Papa Bear discusses his close relationships with Jesus and God, encouraging Little Cub to communicate with God on her own. The theme focuses on the renewal of life and the positive aspects of loving God and Jesus. Easter is presented as a celebration of eternal life, but the story skirts the issue of the crucifixion entirely. Some adults will find this an inadequate or even dishonest approach to the Easter story, but others will appreciate the calm and soothing text as a way to begin to understand a difficult subject. Bryant’s charming watercolor illustrations of the polar bear family, their cozy home and snowy forest scenes add to the overall mellow effect.

Fans of this popular series will find this a rewarding addition to family Easter celebrations. (Religion/picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-73072-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: WaterBrook

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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Both a celebration of and an introduction to the mosque.

IN MY MOSQUE

Children welcome readers into different mosques to learn about varying activities and services that take place in them.

Though many different mosques and children are depicted, the voices call readers’ attention to the similarities among Muslim communities around the world. Yuksel highlights the community eating together; women, men, and children sharing the space and praying together; grandfathers thumbing their tasbihs; grandmothers reading the Quran; aunties giving hugs; children playing. The effect is to demonstrate that a mosque is more than just a building but rather a space where children and adults come together to pray, give, learn, and play. Joyful characters describe what happens in simple, poetic language: “In my mosque, the muezzin’s call to prayer echoes in the air. I stand shoulder to shoulder with my friends, linked like one long chain.” Aly’s bright illustrations pair well with Yuksel’s words, ending with a beautiful spread of children staring at readers, waving and extending their hands: “You are welcome in my mosque.” The variety of mosques included suggests that each has its own unique architecture, but repeating geometric patterns and shapes underscore that there are similarities too. The author’s note guides readers to her website for more information on the mosques depicted; they are not labeled, which is frustrating since the backmatter also includes a tantalizing list of famous mosques on every continent except Antarctica.

Both a celebration of and an introduction to the mosque. (glossary, sources) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-297870-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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