Kimmel (Jar of Fools, p. 1287, etc.) is particularly skilled in refashioning the ritual and folklore of Judaism into widely accessible yet faith-filled retellings.

Here he recounts a soul-satisfying Hasidic legend and incorporates the persona and teachings of the 18th-century Ba'al Shem Tov ("Master of the Good Name") Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer. Gershon, rude and self-absorbed "paid no attention to how he treated others and he didn't care. For he could shed his . . . thoughtless acts like a dog sheds hair." Before each Shabbat he swept his sins (personified as impish, black creatures) into his cellar. "And once a year, on Rosh Hashanah, he stuffed them into a sack and dragged them down to the sea." But Gershon and his wife were childless. Always seeking the quick fix, he blunders in to see a tzaddik, a wonder Rabbi. The Rabbi emphasizes with Gershon's wife but cautions Gershon: "Did you think you could live so thoughtlessly forever? The sea cries out because you have polluted her waters. (Y)our wife . . . will give birth to twins . . . They will be with you five years." Heedless, the ever-arrogant Gershon is convinced he can stave off the inevitable. Five years pass and his children, Sarah and Joseph, are playing on the seashore. Horribly, Gershon's sins coalesce into a huge, black sea monster that threatens their fragile lives: "On each scale was written one of Gershon's misdeeds." Horrified, he began to plead for forgiveness—for the first time in his life. God was merciful. He acknowledged Gershon's heartfelt act of t'shuvah—repentance—and the monster was transformed into a cleansing rain. And Gershon? Having returned to his better nature—he made amends, kept "his soul clean" and never saw the monster again. A deft watercolorist, Muth (Come on Rain!, 1999 ) is particularly skilled at limning personality thorough the telling gesture. The dark grays and blacks of Gershon's sins threaten the soft earth tones, lush greens, sunny yellows. The fluid, clear blues of the sea and the freshened horizon line communicate the gratitude, the exhilaration—and the freedom—of truly placing our sins behind us.

Sustaining. (Folktale. 5-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 978-0-439-10839-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2000

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A touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area.


A pair of cardinals is separated and then reunited when their tree home is moved to New York City to serve as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

The male cardinal, Red, and his female partner, Lulu, enjoy their home in a huge evergreen tree located in the front yard of a small house in a pleasant neighborhood. When the tree is cut down and hauled away on a truck, Lulu is still inside the tree. Red follows the truck into the city but loses sight of it and gets lost. The birds are reunited when Red finds the tree transformed with colored lights and serving as the Christmas tree in a complex of city buildings. When the tree is removed after Christmas, the birds find a new home in a nearby park. Each following Christmas, the pair visit the new tree erected in the same location. Attractive illustrations effectively handle some difficult challenges of dimension and perspective and create a glowing, magical atmosphere for the snowy Christmas trees. The original owners of the tree are a multiracial family with two children; the father is African-American and the mother is white. The family is in the background in the early pages, reappearing again skating on the rink at Rockefeller Center with their tree in the background.

A touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7733-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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A Christmas cozy, read straight or bit by bit through the season.


Neither snow nor rain nor mountains of yummy cheese stay the carrier of a letter to Santa.

So carelessly does 8-year-old Oliver stuff his very late letter to Santa into the mailbox that it falls out behind his back—leaving Winston, a “small, grubby white mouse” with an outsized heart, determined to deliver it personally though he has no idea where to go. Smith presents Winston’s Christmas Eve trek in 24 minichapters, each assigned a December “day” and all closing with both twists or cliffhangers and instructions (mostly verbal, unfortunately) for one or more holiday-themed recipes or craft projects. Though he veers occasionally into preciosity (Winston “tried to ignore the grumbling, rumbling noises coming from his tummy”), he also infuses his holiday tale with worthy values. Occasional snowy scenes have an Edwardian look appropriate to the general tone, with a white default in place but a few dark-skinned figures in view. Less-crafty children will struggle with the scantly illustrated projects, which run from paper snowflakes to clothespin dolls and Christmas crackers with or without “snaps,” but lyrics to chestnuts like “The 12 Days of Christmas” (and “Jingle Bells,” which is not a Christmas song, but never mind) at the end invite everyone to sing along.

A Christmas cozy, read straight or bit by bit through the season. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68412-983-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Silver Dolphin

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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