A nostalgic glimpse at a little-known but rich culture within the broader Jewish American community.



A young Cuban American girl learns the real meaning of home in this poignant story drawing on the real-life history of Cuba’s Sephardic Jews.

Estrella loves to visit her aunt, Tía Fortuna, in her little pink house at the Seaway in Miami. Tía Fortuna once lived “on the other side of the sea, in Havana,” Cuba. When she “had to leave” her home (a closing author’s note pinpoints the Cuban Revolution as the cause), she took only a suitcase of old photographs, her mezuzah (prayer scroll) from her doorpost, and “a key to a home gone forever.” Now, years later, she must move once again, this time to an assisted living facility. While Estrella spends time with her aunt at the seaside and helps her pack, she listens to her life stories, learns about the cultural and religious significance of her most prized possessions, and ultimately learns that, like her ancestors, she can find hope wherever life takes her. This heartfelt intergenerational story illuminates a lesser-known facet of Jewish American immigration. Ladino (i.e., Judeo-Spanish) words are seamlessly integrated into the dialogue between aunt and niece, and Behar weaves Sephardic symbols and traditions into the narrative. For example, Tía Fortuna wears a lucky-eye bracelet (a Sephardic Jewish talisman) and serves borekas (a Sephardic Jewish pastry). Detailed paintings, rendered in gouache, watercolor, and color pencil with digital finishing, skillfully move the visual narrative between the past and the present. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A nostalgic glimpse at a little-known but rich culture within the broader Jewish American community. (glossary) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-17241-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.


Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Heartfelt content for children who need to feel seen.


Words addressed to children aimed at truth-telling, encouraging, and inspiring are accompanied by pictures of children of color going about their days.

“This story is about you,” the narrator opens, as a black boy looks up toward readers, a listening expression on his face. A multiracial group of children romp in a playground to encouraging words: “you are… / a dancer / a singer / in charge of the game.” Then comes a warning about the “whispers” out in the world that “tell you who you are / But only you and love decide.” There is advice about what to do when you “think there is nowhere safe”: “Watch a bird soar / and think, / Me too.” It asks readers to wonder: “If there was a sign on your chest / what would it say?” Children argue and show frustration and anger for reasons unclear to readers, then they hold up signs about themselves, such as “I am powerful” and “I am talented.” A girl looks hurt, and a boy looks “tough” until someone finds them “sitting there wondering / when the sky will blue.” While the words are general, the pictures specify a teacher, who is brown-skinned with straight black hair, as one who “can see you.” While young readers may find the wording unusual, even obscure in places, the nurturing message will not be lost.

Heartfelt content for children who need to feel seen. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-021-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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