Come and rejoice and sing out the heartfelt words to this anthem of hope.



The origin of the beloved song “Hava Nagila” is fascinating and somewhat mysterious.

The song tells its own tale in the persona of Hava, a magical, blue-skinned woman wearing a blue-and-white robe that represents the colors of Israel and Judaism. She floats above the events as a gentle, benevolent spirit spreading hope and joy as a blessing, her mitzvah, for the Jewish people. The song evolves from a niggun, a wordless melody that was hummed in a village synagogue in the Ukraine. Many Jews escaping a difficult and dangerous life, including some from this shtetl, migrated to Jerusalem, their ancient home, where the melody was heard by a renowned musicologist. He is believed to be the most likely creator of the Hebrew lyrics known today. Hava declares the powerful words of “Hava Nagila” a miracle, a gift from Hashem, God, for they speak of rejoicing and celebrating, no matter the trying circumstances of life. Hava travels across the ocean to America accompanied by the dance Hora, a fellow blue spirit. There, the song is embraced and recorded by many, sometimes-unlikely, singers, reaching a wide audience. Benjamin’s lovingly rendered illustrations move and dance across the pages with the music. The essential Jewishness of the song and its amazing longevity and universal appeal across nations and cultures resonate throughout the tale.

Come and rejoice and sing out the heartfelt words to this anthem of hope. (glossary, author’s note, illustrator’s note, photo) (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-951365-06-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Intergalactic Afikoman

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic.


Veteran picture-book creator Polacco tells another story from her childhood that celebrates the importance of staying true to one’s own interests and values.

After years of spending summers with her father and grandmother, narrator Trisha is excited to be spending the school year in Michigan with them. Unexpectedly abandoned by her summertime friends, Trisha quickly connects with fellow outsiders Thom and Ravanne, who may be familiar to readers from Polacco’s The Junkyard Wonders (2010). Throughout the school year, the three enjoy activities together and do their best to avoid school bully Billy. While a physical confrontation between Thom (aka “Sissy Boy”) and Billy does come, so does an opportunity for Thom to defy convention and share his talent with the community. Loosely sketched watercolor illustrations place the story in the middle of the last century, with somewhat old-fashioned clothing and an apparently all-White community. Trisha and her classmates appear to be what today would be called middle schoolers; a reference to something Trisha and her mom did when she was “only eight” suggests that several years have passed since that time. As usual, the lengthy first-person narrative is cozily conversational but includes some challenging vocabulary (textiles, lackeys, foretold). The author’s note provides a brief update about her friends’ careers and encourages readers to embrace their own differences. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2622-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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An early reader that kids will want to befriend.


In an odd-couple pairing of Bear and Chipmunk, only one friend is truly happy to spend the day at the beach.

“Not me!” is poor Chipmunk’s lament each time Bear expresses the pleasure he takes in sunning, swimming, and other activities at the beach. While controlled, repetitive text makes the story accessible to new readers, slapstick humor characterizes the busy watercolor-and-ink illustrations and adds interest. Poor Chipmunk is pinched by a crab, buried in sand, and swept upside down into the water, to name just a few mishaps. Although other animal beachgoers seem to notice Chipmunk’s distress, Bear cheerily goes about his day and seems blithely ignorant of his friend’s misfortunes. The playful tone of the illustrations helps soften the dynamic so that it doesn’t seem as though Chipmunk is in grave danger or that Bear is cruel. As they leave at the end of the book Bear finally asks, “Why did you come?” and Chipmunk’s sweet response caps off the day with a warm sunset in the background.

An early reader that kids will want to befriend. (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3546-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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