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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Thoroughly agenda-driven fodder for discussions about values and diversity, but its streak of silliness should draw a few...

HELPING THE POLONSKYS

From the Muslim All-Stars series

Muslim children help out an elderly (Jewish) couple in a British import that creaks but doesn’t quite collapse under the weight of its worthy purposes.

Responding to a want ad seeking housecleaners, the five young teens—Imran from Pakistan, Leila and Sumaya in stylish hijabs, Adam (a Jamaican convert) and Che Amran, a “Malaysian-looking boy” with Asperger’s—meet on the doorstep of Shimon Polonsky. The elderly gentleman has three days to get an outsized house—in which he keeps dogs, goats and other wildlife—cleaned up before his wife gets home from the hospital. Pausing twice a day for prayers, the companions not only learn to work together to do the deed and make a “Welcome Home” banner, but consign the money they earn to charity. When she arrives, Mrs. Polonsky violently orders them out (supposedly not because of their religion, but even younger children will read between those lines) before being humbled by their selflessness. Slapstick encounters with a mud puddle and a crazed washing machine lighten the load, and in Nayzaki’s brightly colored cartoons, the children sport appealingly huge manga eyes.

Thoroughly agenda-driven fodder for discussions about values and diversity, but its streak of silliness should draw a few chuckles. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: June 4, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-86037-454-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Kube Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

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The protagonist’s character arc is encouraging, but alas, supporting characters come across as props.

NO VACANCY

Is it a bad thing when a Jewish girl fakes an apparition of the Virgin Mary?

Miriam, a white, Jewish 11-year-old from Manhattan, is plunked into a ramshackle motel upstate when her father loses his job. Now she’s helping them turn the dilapidated old place into a functional business. But nobody has a reason to visit Greenvale, New York (population 514), so nobody stays in the motel. Miriam’s finally settling in—she’s made friends with the Mexican American hotel cleaner and with a white girl whose grandparents own the diner next door. It’s a little uncomfortable being in an apparently all-Catholic town, but Miriam just tells people she’s a vegetarian to avoid being served bacon. That’s normal, right? And it’s probably OK to encourage people to see the face of the Virgin Mary in a rust stain at the old drive-in. After all, it’s for a good cause: The flocking faithful bring business to the diner and motel. The gentle shenanigans that ensue progress like a predictably wholesome after-school special. An anti-Semitic act shakes Miriam and encourages her to be proud of her Judaism. A crisis brings the town together, and the local priest leads the townspeople to Miriam’s support. Disappointingly, a disabled character whose initial character development feels fairly complex is reduced at the end to a teachable moment.

The protagonist’s character arc is encouraging, but alas, supporting characters come across as props. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77306-410-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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