Passing By by Yona Tepper, illustrated by Gil-Ly Alon Curiel, translated by Dr. Deborah Guthman. Kane Miller, 2010.
The Plot: Yael watches her neighborhood and its inhabitants. Who's far away? Who's coming closer?
The Good: Yael is on her balcony with her bunny. Instead of being isolated, she observes (and so is part of) her larger world. A dog goes by, a cat, a truck, a bicycle. Always -- some is far away, someone is coming closer, there is something new.
A beautifully illustrated book for preschoolers -- just the right balance of security (Yael at home, her mother, eventually her father coming home) with adventure (rather, the adventure she observes).
Passing By was originally published in Israel. As I've said before in reviews of books originally published in other countries, I love the window/mirror aspect of such books. These books look at life in other countries without over-explaining. So, here, those touches of Israeli culture are not changing the first sentence. It remains "Yael likes to see what's going on in her street" rather than an awkward "In Israel, Yael likes to see what's going on in her street." All the street signs are in Hebrew, without comment or observation. The little girl's name, Yael, is unchanged to something that would be "more familiar" to American audiences.
I loved Curiel's illustrations: bright, cheerful, colorful, full of life. They are also full of additional details of life on Yael's street for a reader to notice: a hat left on a bench, a child's chalk art on a wall. The jacket copy led me to Curiel's website Children in the Ghetto, an educational resource for teaching children about the Holocaust. Wow, wow, wow; it deserves its own post, and I mention it here mainly because right now I have a few balls in the air and am afraid I won't get back to tell you about it. Click thru; you won't be disappointed.
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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy