Based on the life of a 19th-century Jewish man who became Pueblo governor, a sweet celebration of diverse heritage.

ELAN, SON OF TWO PEOPLES

Thirteen-year-old Elan learns about his dual Jewish and Pueblo Indian heritage on a trip from San Francisco to New Mexico where he will read from the Torah and participate in a traditional Pueblo ceremony of becoming a man.

In 1898, Elan feels fortunate and special to have a Jewish father and a mother of Pueblo descent. While his family reviews the story of their mixed backgrounds, similarities between the two cultures become apparent. The transition from childhood to adult is respectfully addressed through Elan’s two coming-of-age ceremonies, witnessed by both families. For his bar mitzvah Torah reading, Elan proudly accepts a special tallit woven by his mother with symbols of the Star of David, the Ten Commandments, a stalk of corn and an oak tree. His parents remind Elan that he is the son of two proud nations, as his name means “oak tree” in Hebrew and “friendly” in the language of his mother’s people, the Acoma Pueblo. With his father, cousin Manolo and the other men of the community, Elan is welcomed into the Acoma tribe with rituals in the kiva (appropriately not depicted). Gouache scenes in soft, earthy tones gently depict the journey.

Based on the life of a 19th-century Jewish man who became Pueblo governor, a sweet celebration of diverse heritage. (historical note, glossary) (Picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7613-9051-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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This exciting retelling of the Hanukkah story should appeal to both Jewish and non-Jewish children.

A DREIDEL IN TIME

A NEW SPIN ON AN OLD TALE

Devorah and her younger brother, Benjamin, anxiously await their Hanukkah presents.

They are disappointed when their grandparents give them only a very old, misshapen dreidel to share, but Mom knows that this dreidel has magical properties that once helped her reach a true understanding of Hanukkah. The children’s first spin lands on Shin, meaning they have lost something. They have also somehow landed (with the dreidel) in ancient Modi’in, where Jews are in conflict with the Syrian king. The children find that they are speaking and understanding Hebrew and quickly become caught up in the fight between the Maccabees and the Syrian army. After the next spin, Nun, meaning neither gain nor loss, two years have passed and the battles continue. Hey, or halfway, leads to “a great miracle happened here”: one night’s oil burning for eight nights. Finally they spin Gimmel, or everything, and at last return home with a better understanding of their holiday traditions. These modern children are not only witnesses; they use historical information to guide the Maccabees’ leaders and to participate bravely in the events—to the extent that the author seems to imply that these ancients might not have been able to succeed without them. Castro’s black-and-white cartoon illustrations provide readers with visual context, depicting both historical and modern characters with pale skin.

This exciting retelling of the Hanukkah story should appeal to both Jewish and non-Jewish children. (Historical fiction/fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-4672-1

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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A sweet story about the importance of sharing and caring that’s embedded in Islamic traditions.

ZAHRA'S BLESSING

A RAMADAN STORY

A young Muslim girl, cued as Pakistani American, prays for a blessing and ends up being one.

During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Zahra and her parents fast, worship together at home, and attend mosque. Zahra has learned from her mother that Ramadan is the month of blessings, so she prays for a sibling (specifically a sister) and for her lost favorite toy, a teddy bear, to be found. At the local refugee center where Zahra volunteers regularly with her mother, she meets and paints with Haleema, a young girl who has lost both of her parents. As the days of Ramadan go by, the two girls grow closer, and Zahra wishes she could find her teddy bear and give it to her new friend. The night before Eid al-Fitr, Zahra’s parents reveal that they have “something special to tell” her. Readers discover (eventually) that Zahra’s parents are adopting Haleema—just one of the unexpected blessings Zahra receives as Eid morning dawns. Shamsi’s narrative is engaging, portraying a Muslim community assimilating to life in America but also holding on to important cultural traditions. The text makes references to Pakistani foods and to religious rituals like iftar, and the dialogue includes a few Muslim phrases. Mirza’s digital paintings depict rosy-cheeked, brown-skinned main characters (background characters are racially diverse), are full of vibrant colors, and incorporate patterns that echo Pakistani textile design. As some Muslim women do, Zahra’s mother covers her hair in public but not at home except when praying. Members of Zahra’s community are depicted wearing shalwar kameezzes, hijabs, and topi hats as well as Western clothing.

A sweet story about the importance of sharing and caring that’s embedded in Islamic traditions. (notes, author’s note, illustrator’s note) (Religious picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64686-493-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Barefoot Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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