Breath in short pants

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - AN­GELA KIVERSTEIN

EV­ERY­ONE LOVES Un­der­pants, as Claire Freed­man and Ben Cort can con­firm. Their pic­ture­book se­ries, in which nether gar­ments are promi­nently pa­raded, is cel­e­brat­ing its 10th an­niver­sary with a World Book Day edi­tion (Si­mon & Schus­ter, £1). And there are pants aplenty here — hi­lar­i­ously pat­terned, over­sized, im­prob­a­bly sported by di­nosaurs and mon­sters, sent into space and used as tram­po­lines. Even the word “un­der­pants” is friendly and pro­nounce­able for learner read­ers, while their comic qual­i­ties and elas­tic rhyme-abil­ity en­dear them to read­ers up to age eight.

When Izzy and Olivia Bloom in­vite friends for a Fri­day-night meal, ev­ery­one is shocked to find the Blooms do not light Shab­bat can­dles. Un­til they find them­selves sit­ting Un­der the Sab­bath Lamp (Kar-Ben, £6.99). Michael Her­man’s story tells how the an­tique oil fit­ting, used in­stead of can­dle­sticks, was handed down from great-great­grand­fa­ther Isaac. When he set out for a new life in Amer­ica, he took part of the lamp and, as his fam­ily joined him, each brought an­other piece, re­assem­bling it. Al­ida Mas­sari’s draw­ings of fam­ily life past and present have a dolls’-house cute­ness. Age five to seven.

In 1967, Motti is still a school­boy. His big­gest worry, at the open­ing of Tam­mar [sic] Stein’s The Six-Day Hero (KarBen, £8), is hav­ing ac­ci­den­tally drunk his fa­ther’s Coca-Cola, a treat we are told has only just be­come avail­able in Is­rael, in de­fi­ance of the Arab League. Stein builds up a child’s-eye picture of Jerusalem, com­plete with Ba­zooka gum and stray cats and a hand­some 19-yearold sol­dier brother. She is equally good at sketch­ing the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion that led to war — a chal­lenge in a book for 11-to-14-year-olds. By the time Motti faces his make-or-break mo­ment, even read­ers born well af­ter 1967 will feel them­selves there with him.

What if your exboyfriend, Theo, died and left you to hang out with this other guy who, by the way, was your suc­ces­sor in Theo’s af­fec­tions? The only thing you have left of your beloved is memories — those, and a crip­pling ob­ses­sion with even num­bers. His­tory is All You Left Me by Adam Sil­vera (£7.99) is clas­sic YA in the David Le­vithan mode, in­tel­lec­tual, in­tro­spec­tive, touch­ing upon God, par­al­lel uni­verses, co­conut hot choco­late with caramel and Harry Pot­ter, the stuff young adults thrive on. Age 16 up (sen­si­tive con­tent).

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