Whether you light a menorah every year or are new to the Jewish Festival of Lights, you’ll find something to appreciate among this year’s Hanukkah picture book offerings. All three involve combinations of rhyming verse and fine art, as well as new takes on old traditions.
First there was Wilbur the pig. Then there was Ivan the shopping mall gorilla. Now there’s Audrey the cow.
Twins Johnny and Will and their friend Rad are back for more adventures in the third installment of Allen Johnson Jr.’s Blackwater Novels, set in 1940s Alabama and Georgia.
There’s something about cats. In 2010, Benno and the Night of Broken Glass by Meg Wiviott and Josée Bisaillon showed the Nazi Kristallnacht riots from the point of view of an alley cat. Before that, The Cats in Krasinski Square by Karen Hesse and Wendy Watson told how stray cats distracted Nazi dogs, allowing food to be smuggled into the Warsaw ghetto. And now there’s Clare, a cat who sees the contemporary Israeli/Palestinian conflict from a unique point of view.
Twelve-year-old Candice Phee figures that her life needs fixing. Her father and her uncle need to end their longtime feud, and her mother needs to find a way out of her depression. Also, her pen pal Denille needs to finally write back, and her new friend Douglas needs to return to the real home he claims is in Another Dimension. Candice knows she can solve these problems, big and small, because she’s daring, determined and bursting with creative ideas.
Benjamin Epstein loves “sweeping,” or applying to sweepstakes. He’s especially excited about the competition to write a new slogan for Royal-T Bathroom Tissue. Winning the contest would provide enough money for Benjamin and his mother to avoid eviction from their small Philadelphia apartment without giving up on the Grand Plan his father designed before dying of lung cancer: Benjamin’s mother will finish her accounting degree, get a good job, and she and Benjamin will have a better life.
If you are—or ever were—a kid who couldn’t wait for school to start in September, get ready to meet Magnolia Jane Mayfield. It’s 1988, and Maggie’s starting sixth grade. She’s thrilled to have a lunch table all to herself, because she can spread out her books better that way.
No one can ever have too many picture books about smart girls who love science—or too many stories about big, loyal dogs. Still, a book with these elements needs other features to stand out, and Maggi and Milo delivers.
Ava Lavender was born with a pair of wings. Her twin brother, Henry, rarely speaks and hates to be touched. In the rainy Seattle spring of 1944, these two siblings become the newest members of a family already known for its mysterious powers: Their grandmother can smell feelings and bake them into bread; their great-aunt once turned herself into a canary to attract the attention of her ornithologist beau; and their murdered great-uncle haunts his family in the hopes of delivering an important message.
Forbidden love among teenagers has been a hot topic since long before Romeo first met Juliet at a party in fair Verona. The latest YA entry in this genre has Kestrel, daughter of a conquering Valorian general, falling for Arin, a native Herrani slave. Romance and politics quickly intersect as the Herrani stage a violent attempt to take back their land, and loyalties are tested when Kestrel, Arin and their various allies must choose between love, power, security and family.