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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Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization.


If Pluto can’t be a planet—then what is he?

Having been a regular planet for “the better part of forever,” Pluto is understandably knocked out of orbit by his sudden exclusion. With Charon and his four other moons in tow he sets off in search of a new identity. Unfortunately, that only spins him into further gloom, as he doesn’t have a tail like his friend Halley’s comet, is too big to join Ida and the other asteroids, and feels disinclined to try to crash into Earth like meteoroids Gem and Persi. Then, just as he’s about to plunge into a black hole of despair, an encounter with a whole quartet of kindred spheroids led by Eris rocks his world…and a follow-up surprise party thrown by an apologetic Saturn (“Dwarf planet has a nice RING to it”) and the other seven former colleagues literally puts him “over the moon.” Demmer gives all the heavenly bodies big eyes (some, including the feminine Saturn, with long lashes) and, on occasion, short arms along with distinctive identifying colors or markings. Dressing the troublemaking meteoroids in do-rags and sunglasses sounds an off note. Without mentioning that the reclassification is still controversial, Wade closes with a (somewhat) straighter account of Pluto’s current official status and the reasons for it.

Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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A solid sequel, easily accessible to readers who missed Volume 1.


From the Little Shaq series , Vol. 2

A fictionalized young Shaquille O'Neal returns for a second illustrated story about life beyond the basketball court.

Little Shaq and his cousin Barry come home from the rec center giddy about Little Shaq's first three-point shot but are greeted with another surprise. For the first time, Little Shaq's mom has made sushi for a family dinner. Barry and the others dig in, but Little Shaq's curiosity about sushi only hits him after the last roll is gone. Little Shaq's joy and confidence on the court—best expressed when Little Shaq exuberantly tosses a postgame grape into Barry's mouth ("Three points!")—contrast strongly with his unease trying new foods or activities. A large part of the book concerns a school art project, and Little Shaq's frustration is made poignantly clear through both illustration and description ("Little Shaq crumpled up his drawing and marched back to the supply tables"). Throughout, the love among Little Shaq's family members shines through in their interactions, and the story delivers a message without triteness. Taylor’s full-color illustrations break up text on almost every page, adding warmth and energy. (Final art not seen.)

A solid sequel, easily accessible to readers who missed Volume 1. (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61963-844-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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