Book Reviews


A Tale from Medieval Spain

Publishers Weekly Starred Review
“Inspired by a legend about a Jewish vizier who advised the Muslim ruler of medieval Spain, this story tells of a conundrum faced by a boy named Samuel and the counterintuitive wisdom of his father, the vizier. After Samuel accidentally offends Hamza, the tax collector’s son, and incurs endures his rage (“Donkey Brain! Stupid! Look what you did!”), Samuel’s father instructs him, “Make sure Hamza never says a mean word to you again.” With illuminating details—such as the boys’ headwear, backdrops of thick stone walls or heavy wooden doors, geometric patterns in mauves and browns, and a vine and flower motif—Bernhard’s (Around the World in One Shabbat) illustrations convey an elegant, multicultural castle environment. Energy and movement infuse the paintings, which humorously render Samuel’s contemplated strategies (“Maybe he could train a monkey to sit on Hamza’s shoulders. The monkey could clamp Hamza’s lips shut”). Jules’s (the Zapato Power series) down-to-earth narrative communicates Samuel’s subtle internal transformation as the unexpected, amusing, and touching outcomes of his attempts to obey his father turn a power struggle into a budding friendship.”  Ages 4–8.
Reviewed on 04/18/2014 by Tory Abel

“Jules has crafted a folk tale that is sure to please. She writes in a gracious and enjoyable way, with simplicity and humor.  A story of bullying, acceptance, and friendship, NEVER SAY A MEAN WORD AGAIN is a delightful account of turning meanness and rudeness into kindness and friendship.
Durga Yael Bernhard has constructed appealing illustrations, with Moorish-influenced designs. Her muted color choices and smooth designs complement the text wonderfully, calmly propelling the story forward.  The internal layout is pleasant and easy to follow, with a striking font that is easy to read, and perfectly accompanied by the illustrations.” [Foreword Reviews, May 2014]

“NEVER SAY A MEAN WORD AGAIN was a delightfully unexpected treat. When I read about the book, I was not sure how I would like it. I’m so glad I gave it a chance. The story was so deeply inspiring. What started out as an inadvertent action led to a situation of challenge that needed to be addressed. The way that Samuel handled the challenge, while at the same time trying to honor his father’s request, proved to be a beautiful lesson on what really matters above all else.
The illustrations in this book were perfectly matched to the tale written. I loved the colors and texture. My eyes were drawn to the details.”
[Kim Teamer to be posted on Goodreads]


Jewish People Celebrate the Sabbath Together

Durga Yael Bernhard. Jewish Lights, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-58023-433-7

Reviewed on: 04/11/2011

Bernhard uses a global, child-centric approach to explore traditions and rituals that accompany the Sabbath. Each spread tells the story of a different child; in Buenos Aires, Alicia awakens from a nap and helps her sister braid challah, while in Istanbul Leyla joins her brother and parents around the table (“The golden rays of sunset bring a feeling of peace as Shabbat begins”). As Bernhard moves from France and Canada to Ethiopia and Thailand, warm, genial paintings add to an overall sense of serenity and community. The lyricism of the vignettes belies just how much information Bernhard packs into the book–it’s an excellent resource. Ages 3–6. (Apr.)

While You Are Sleeping: A Lift-the-Flap Book of Time Around the World

Well-suited to storytime, bedtime, or just about any other time, this soothing picture book leapfrogs around the globe to drive home the idea that at any given moment, kids worldwide are sleeping, working, playing, and dreaming.  “While you are reading,” Bernhard opens, “on the other side of the world, someone is getting dressed.” Opposite an Alaskan mother and child reading together at 10pm, a circular flap lifts to reveal a Nigerian girl tying her head wrap at 9am.  From there, Bernhard jumps to Japan, Mexico, India, and elsewhere as children engage in everyday activities.  A closing note touches on time zones, the prime meridian, and 12- versus 24-hour clocks.  Ages 5-8.


While You Are Sleeping: A Lift-the-Flap Book of Time Around the World


BERNHARD, Durga. While You Are Sleeping: A Lift-the-Flap Book of Time Around the World. illus. by author. unpaged. maps. CIP. Charlesbridge. 2011. RTE $14.95. ISBN 978-1-57091-473-7. LC 2010007589.

K-Gr 2As she did with In the Fiddle Is a Song (Chronicle, 2006), Bernhard has taken a relatively complicated concept and presented it with elegant clarity. She begins her journey in Alaska at 10:00 p.m., with a mother reading a story to her child. Meanwhile on the other side of the world, someone is getting dressed. A small circular flap depicts a Nigerian village, and when lifted it shows a child completing the action described at 9:00 a.m. The next page shows that same child walking through her village holding a pineapple and a loaf of bread and states: While you are carrying, someone is walking home with a friend. The corresponding flap on the page opposite depicts a Japanese village, and it is lifted to reveal two Japanese boys making their way home at 5:00 p.m. The pattern continues, moving from country to country with children performing actions appropriate to a particular time of day until readers are back in Alaska at 10:00 p.m. with a now-slumbering child. The carefully composed gouache illustrations use mostly muted shades punctuated with occasional splashes of bright color and accurately depict the architecture, landscape, dress, etc., of each country. The small flaps are superimposed on maps that show the location of both the country and the continent. Lift-the-flap books tend not to fare well in general circulation, but this one would work well either one-on-one or in a group setting for a lesson that includes time, geography, and diversity.Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ

A Patchwork of Books
Monday, April 11, 2011

Non-Fiction Monday: While You Are Sleeping

Teaching children about different time zones could be a lot of fun, as this book illustrates. I mean, how cool is it to imagine that while you’re sitting at a desk in school, another child may be fast asleep at home or vice versa?
Using bright illustrations and very simple text, the reader is able to get a look into what life is like in different parts of the world. At 10pm in Alaska, a child is reading a bedtime story, while all the way in Nigeria, it is 9am and a child is getting dressed for their day. While you are waving goodbye to friends in Japan at 5pm, someone in Mexico is fast asleep at 2am. Fun!
Each page features a small map featuring the first country mentioned and the time of day, as well as a lift-the-flap of a visual and a clock featuring the time in the other country. The very last pages include a world map and a small block of text explaining time zones and how they work. Interactive and beautifully illustrated!
Great for classroom or homeschooling!


Bernhard, Durga. 2011. While You are Sleeping: A Lift-the-Flap Book of Time Around the World. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.

Just a quick post today on a great little title for the 2011 Cooperative Summer Library Program, “One World, Many Stories.”  Each page features a small inset map and a local time, with an illustration of a child sleeping, playing, eating, doing whatever is common for that time.  The adjacent page features a circular illustration depicting another part of the world. Lift the flap to see another child in his own time zone.  The following pages continue the story, each child in his own country at his local time.  (Interestingly, the local time in India is at half-past the hour, as the entire country of India is set in the time zone, regardless of the standard longitudinal divisions between Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian.)The final pages feature a map of the world with the delineations for each time zone. While You Are Sleeping is an attractively illustrated multi-purpose book, suitable for the summer reading theme, “One World, Many Stories”, or for teaching multiculturalism, time zones, geography, or the rotation of the earth around the sun.

While You Are Sleeping
***Reviewer’s Pick of the Month, California Kids
June 21, 2011
This clever book opens with a mother reading to her child at 10pm in Alaska. “While you are reading, on the other side of the world, someone is getting dressed.”  You lift the flap to see a girl in Nigeria knotting a scarf on her head at 9am.  Turn the page to see the Nigerian girl strolling through her village.  Lift the flap to see two boys walking home at 5pm in Japan.  Each page shows a tiny map of the country, a clock, and scenes of children doing time-appropriate activities.  Young readers will quickly grasp the concept of how time marches around the world, and why one child is waking up as another is going to bed.  The colorful art is warm, restful, and meant to lead a child into sleep by the end of the story.

American Jewish World

August 18, 2011
“Beginning with the story of creation, author Tami Lehman-Wilzig says the Bible teaches us ‘to use and respect the land, conserve natural resources and save energy.’ Lehman-Wilzig, described as one of Israel’s leading English language copywriters, has created a new book for older children that encourages them to discover the wonders of our natural world.

Using abbreviated versions of popular Bible stories, Lehman-Wilzig finds the environmental theme in each one and offers unique activities for children that correlate to the stories. Noah’s story, for example, teaches that “variety is the spice of life,” and the complementary activities encourage young readers to recognize diversity in their own backyard ecosystems.

Lehman-Wilzig continues with the stories of Abraham and sustainable herding; recycling, reducing and reusing while building the tabernacle; and Joshua, who harnessed solar power.


Jewish Media Review – Dov Peretz Elkins
Dov Peretz Elkins
August 18, 2011

New Books from Kar-Ben
“Beginning with the story of Creation, the Bible teaches us to use and respect the land, conserve natural resources, and save energy. The Bible stories of Noah, Abraham, Joshua and others are retold, and reinforced with activities that will help young readers understand how to nurture and protect the environment. From the same author who brought you Tasty Bible Stories!

A wonderful way to introduce young folks to the ‘green’ movement.”–Jewish Media Review

 Kirkus Reviews
August 10, 2011

Green Bible Stories for Children
An environmental theme unites nine Jewish bible stories enhanced with a variety of science and nature activities.

“The religiously focused narrative begins by stating that God’s ‘perfectly planned planet’ has been misused by humankind. Biblical figures such as Noah, Abraham, Joshua, Joseph and Moses demonstrate how the Bible is filled with ways to preserve and respect the earth. From Noah’s Ark and the flood, illustrating the beauty of the planet’s biodiversity, to Joshua’s need for sunlight to successfully defend the people of Gibeon with solar power, each scene is connected to a contemporary interpretation through introductory paragraphs and child-oriented projects. For example, noise pollution is addressed through the story of how Joshua destroyed Jericho first by surrounding the city walls with silence and then by using the loud trumpet blasts to crack the ramparts reinforcing the walls. This is followed by a simple science experiment that will observe whether two identical plants will grow differently under soothing classical and loud hard rock music. Biblical scenes done in gouache against white or pastel backgrounds alternate with easy-to-achieve directives in white panels set against a background that look like green handmade paper. A final ‘potpourri’ section deals with biblical laws and practices for a plethora of eco-friendly practices.”

A credible, ethical approach to teaching environmental science and responsibility under a Judaic umbrella. (Religion. 5-9) —Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly
August 15, 2011

Green Bible Stories for Children
“Beginning with the Genesis creation account and God’s mandate to humanity to care for the earth, Lehman-Wilzig retells nine biblical stories, illuminating their prescriptions for environmental preservation and conscientious stewardship. In ‘Variety Is the Spice of Life,’ God instructs Noah in the importance of taking two of ‘every type of beast, bird and insect,’ as part of God’s plan to heal creation after the flood. ‘Preventing Famine: Joseph Plans Ahead’ retells how Joseph prepared for imminent drought. Following each story, suggested activities, which appear in white boxes against full-spread green backdrops resembling recycled paper, provide opportunities for readers to make connections between the story’s ideas and their own lives; for example: ‘Check out Biodiversity at the Zoo’ and ‘Create Your Own Survival Kit.’ Story text appears on pale washes of blue, gold, and lilac above, below, or beside Bernhard’s delicate brown-hued paintings, which capture the Israelites’ various habitats: desert tents and brick-hewn buildings. A final ‘Potpourri’ section provides scriptural guidance on such related issues as caring for animals and generosity. The story makes biblical wisdom accessible and relevant. —Publishers Weekly


To & Fro, Fast & Slow – NY Times Book Review

“To & Fro, Fast & Slow” is aimed at the very young child living in a troubled world . . . specifically the split domain of those children who must pass back and forth between divorced parents. Bernhard’s is a bright, lively and above all hopeful book about one such girl. . . . While the text offers simple contrasting verbal concepts, the pictures show us rich visual contrasts of color and texture. . . . There is a solidity to the artist’s forms and brushstrokes and a firm, bright boldness to each of her page designs. What could easily have become pure chaos becomes a harmonious blending of disparate experiences.

“It is possible, this book quietly asserts, that there may actually be riches gained and experiences broadened by something as theoretically troubling as a divorce.”




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