A Hungry Lion; or, A Dwindling Assortment of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins

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a hungry lion_web.jpgALSC Notable Book 2017. Animals disappear one by one, except for a hungry lion. Perhaps the lion is to blame, but could there be another explanation for these rapidly disappearing critters? Cummins’ enjoyably repetitive text and droll illustrations give each animal a personality, despite their pending departure, from the stand-out sauciness of the lion to the affable nature of the ever-present turtle. The stark backgrounds play this up and allow each character to stand out. They reappear at a surprise party, but the tables turn–again (and again)–until ultimately one unexpected survivor remains. All the carnage (both real and assumed) takes place off-page, potentially furthering confusion caused by the story’s many twists. Illustrations in brush marker, gouache, graphite, colored pencil, and charcoal playfully contrast with the macabre undertones.

Horrible Bear! by Ame Dyckman illustrated by Zachariah Ohora

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horrible bear_web.jpgALSC Notable Book 2017. Hoping to retrieve her kite, a girl reaches into sleeping Bear’s cave just as he rolls over, inadvertently crushing it beneath him. “Horrible Bear!” she shrieks and then stomps home to scribble, kick, and (accidentally) rip the ear off her stuffed bunny. Meanwhile, Bear is indignant over being so rudely awakened, and he is bent on revenge. He practices barging and making a ruckus, eventually stomping down the mountain to the girl’s house. When the two meet, however, the girl (who now realizes accidents just happen) immediately apologizes, draining all the horrible out of Bear. He becomes Sweet Bear, dedicated to patching up toys and friendships. The creators of Wolfie the Bunny (2015) explore the common childhood experiences of accidents and misunderstandings with sensitivity and humor. A perfectly over-the-top look at tantrums, friendship, and forgiveness that is sure to resonate with preschoolers and parents alike.

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty illustrated by David Roberts

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ada twist scientist_webALSC Notable Book 2017. The team behind Iggy Peck, Architect (2007) and Rosie Revere, Engineer (2013) introduce a new STEM picture-book heroine. Ada Marie Twist is an African American girl who does not speak until the age of three. But once she does, she starts with “Why? And then What? How? and When? / By bedtime she came back to Why? once again.” Ada Twist’s curiosity is insatiable, often involving more chaos than method. The pen-and-ink illustrations are full of blocks, beakers, graph paper, gadgets; at times the pages can barely contain the breadth of Ada’s inquisitiveness. An author’s note reveals that the heroine is named after trailblazing women scientists Marie Curie and Ada Lovelace. Young Ada Twist and her nonstop intellect might just encourage readers to blaze trails of their own.

On One Foot by Linda Glaser, illustrated by Nuria Balaguer

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on one foot_web.jpgAJL Notable Book 2017. This is the famous Jewish fable of a young man who challenges the great sage Rabbi Hillel to teach him the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel cleverly responds, “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you. That is the whole Torah—the rest is commentary.” This picture book, while not crediting its Talmudic source, is an expansion of that incident, offering motivation for the odd request and showing the student experiencing reciprocal behaviors during his quest for the perfect teacher. The collage illustrations are filled with clever and even irreverent touches; all the characters’ noses are made from Hebrew texts, and the elders’ beards are fashioned from materials that range from torn brown paper to snippets of mesh.

Not This Turkey! by Jessica Steinberg, illustrated by Amanda Pike

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not this turkey.jpgAJL Notable Book 2017. Although Mel and his family have lived in America for several years, they have never celebrated Thanksgiving, just the Jewish holidays. But this year, after papa wins a turkey at work, Mama invites all their relatives to their Brooklyn tenement for dinner. But, after finding out that the old turkey is too tough to eat, the family solves the problem by asking all the guests bring their country’s own special traditional food to the meal. The new immigrants are thankful to be celebrating their first Thanksgiving together, with or without the traditional turkey.

Gabriel’s Horn by Eric Kimmel illustrated by Maria Surducan

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gabriels horn_webAJL Notable Book 2017. On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, an African-American soldier knocks at on the door of a Jewish family’s antiques store and hands the boy Gabriel an old neglected horn that belonged to the enlisted man’s grandfather, requesting that the antiques-store owners keep it during his deployment. Kimmel has updated his story “The Samovar” about the legendary character Elijah who can take on numerous disguises—like a soldier—to help and influence those less fortunate. The czarist Russian setting is remade into a contemporary American integrated urban community. Over the years Gabriel engages in tzedakah and the horn magically brightens each time until it’s gleaming shine represents Gabriel’s family’s acts of kindness and new prosperity.

Chicken Soup, Chicken Soup by Pamela Mayer, illustraed by Deborah Melmon

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chicken soup_webAJL Notable Book 2017. “Two Grandmas. Two delicious recipes. And one granddaughter caught in the middle. Sophie loves Bubbe’s Jewish chicken soup made with kreplach. She also loves Nai Nai’s Chinese chicken soup, with wonton. But don’t tell Bubbe and Nai Nai that their soups are the same. The grandmothers are miffed when Sophie calls the dumplings in their soups by the wrong terminology. The grandmothers are quick to point out the differences between kreplach and wonton, but Sophie has a plan to show her elders how good a mixture of “a little Jewish, a little Chinese—a lot like me” can be.