Thursday, November 15, 2007

review: Thank You, Thanksgiving

As long as I'm doing holidays in reverse order...

Thank You, Thanksgiving written and illustrated by David
Milgrim. Clarion, 2003 (0-618-27466-9) $9.95; 2006
(978-0-618-75243-0) $5.95 pb

Gratitude is expressed with simplicity and charm, as a little girl goes on a Thanksgiving day errand, thanking the birds who sing music to her, the warm boots that keep her cozy in the snow, and the duck that brings her the scarf she left behind. There are funny bits here, like the girl's Hollywood entrance back home: "Thank you, thank you," she gracefully bows. But the heart of the book is her joyous appreciation of all the small gifts of the day. Chunky, digitally created illustrations have a childlike quality that seems just right for the child's-eye view. (2-5)

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review: Hanukkah Shmanukkah

I would've thought all us kidlit types knew this book already, but apparently not, so I'm spreading the word.

Hanukkah, Shmanukkah! by Esme Raji Codell. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Hyperion, 2005 (978-0-7868-5179-9) $16.99

Several different threads of Jewish history--the first Hanukkah, immigration to the United States and the fight for unions and better working conditions in sweatshops--are all woven together in a parody of Dicken's "A Christmas Carol" that is funny, touching, and far more grounded in business reality than the original. Cranky old "Scroogemacher" does "not rush out and get a big challah and bring it to the Gersteins" after his visits from the Rabbis of Hanukkah Past, Present and Future, but he does treat his workers a little better and listen to their demands when they go on strike. If reading aloud, you will want to gear up your best Yiddish accent to do justic to the text, which is lavishly sprinkled with phrases like "That farshtunkener butcher sold me bad meat" and "Don't ask me for alms. I put it in the tzedakah box already"; though the book is long, the narrative is so flavorfully constructed, it's hard to stop reading. (A glossary is included.) Illustrations in mostly muted browns, reds and yellows are rather familiar images of Jewish "types," which works in this context. (5 & up)

and if Christmas is coming...

A note of warning: Hanukkah comes really early this year! December 5th by my calendar, which may or may not have it right.

I haven't yet seen Lemony Snicket's new book, The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming, but from what Evan tells me, it is both hysterically funny and a book whose time has more than come. Check it out.

And a few reviews of more traditional Hanukkah books. (Okay, there are some odd ones too.)

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review: Morris's Disappearing Bag by Rosemary Wells

I used to conscientiously not post anything Christmas related until after Thanksgiving... but let's face it, who am I kidding? Or, for that matter, helping?

Morris's Disappearing Bag written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells. Viking, 1999; Puffin, 2001 (978-0-1423-0004-6) $6.99 pb

On Christmas morning, Morris is happy with his present of a stuffed bear--until he finds that none of his three siblings wants to trade and let him try their new toys. Then he finds a package that was overlooked--and in it a Disappearing Bag that turns him invisible! Of course, everyone wants to try that!

This is such a fresh, imaginative take on Christmas morning, with an easily recognizable problem and an ingenious resolution. Wells makes it even more fun by frequently reincorporating the theme of the other three toys as they are traded by the siblings--happily disregarding stereotypical sex roles--and by embellishing the cheerful pictures of chunky rabbit-people with lots of little print motifs; Morris, in mistletoe overalls, is especially adorable. * (3-6)

Guest review by Ben: "I like that a girl got a boy toy."

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