Fartiste by wife and husband authors Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, and illustrator Boris Kulikov, relates the true and intriguing tale of French artist, Joseph Pujol, who, at the height of his popularity, performed at the Moulin Rouge, to audiences of royal stature, pulling in tens of thousands of francs a night. And what was his talent, you might ask? Well, at age eight Joe discovered he had the ability to pass gas on command with no smell! He grew up to be a baker, but to help support his wife and ten children he began farting on street corners, then filling concert halls, eventually becoming the toast of gay Paris, and the rest is history!
Martina the Beautiful Cockroach is a Cuban folktale, retold here by Carmen Agra Deedy, with lovely illustrations by Michael Austin. When Martina Josefina Catalina Cucaracha, most eligible of bachelorette pests, begins searching for a husband, her grandmother teaches her “the coffee test.” When a suitor comes to call, Martina spills the hot beverage all over their shoes. How they react will give her insight into how quick to anger they might be in marriage. Martina doesn’t hesitate to pour coffee all over the arrogant rooster, the hygenically challenged pig, and the sneaky lizard, but what happens when she falls for meek mouse gardener Perez? Perhaps he has a surprise in store for her…
Zigazak! A Magical Hanukkah Night by Eric A. Kimmel is a story about two devils (who are actually pretty cute) who arrive at a town called Brisk during the Jewish festival of Hanukkah to create some mischief. They peek into the townspeople’s windows. Families are spinning dreidels, frying latkes, and lighting candles. “Zigazak” the devils cry, and suddenly the dreidels sprout arms and legs, the latkes go flying through the kitchen, and fireworks shoot out from the candles! Can Brisk’s Rabbi put a stop to their disruptive pranks? Find out in Zigazak! The book also features charming illustrations by Jon Goodell, and introduces children to the Kabbalistic concept of Tikkun olam which presupposes there are sparks of holiness in everything (even little devils)!
Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein is a book with many layers, much like its collage art illustrations by Ed Young. On the surface it’s the story of a cat named Wabi Sabi, who is trying to discover the meaning of her name, but underneath it is influenced by Zen philosophy. Wabi Sabi is a Japanese concept which finds beauty in things that are simple, imperfect, natural, modest, and mysterious. This explains why everyone the cat asks tells her “it’s hard to explain,” why the city she walks through is not as pretty as the woods that surround it, and why she finally understands the meaning of her name when she sees herself, plain but beautiful, in the reflection of a wooden bowl of warm tea.