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A little girl's understanding of the annual Jewish New Year for trees, known as the holiday of Tu B'Shevat, begins with a seedling she continues to care for through her primary years, watching it grow into a fine small tree.
This gentle narrative incorporates the natural progression of both plant and family life as its protagonist, Netta ('plant' in Hebrew), grows under her family's nurturing even as she cultivates the new seedling. When Netta grows too big for her toddler-size bed and moves into a larger one, she also replants her little growing tree in a roomier pot, giving it water, sunlight and even music. As the whole family expands with a new baby sister and an imminent move to a larger home, Netta's tree moves with them to an outdoor setting, first on the new house's porch and then in the ground in a nearby park. Beginning with new kindergarten friends, Netta will celebrate the growth of the tree each year on this special day with a traditional outdoor party filled with fruits and nuts typically harvested in Israel. A pale springlike palette of greens, yellows and blues in the soft-edged drawings reinforces the symbolism of new growth.
A welcome addition to the Judaica and ecology shelves. (glossary, author's note) (Picture book. 3-5) -- Kirkus Reviews
For Tu B'Shevat, the Jewish holiday that's a combination of Earth Day and Arbor Day (although it usually falls in January or February, it's spring in Israel), everyone in Netta's preschool class is bringing home a seedling in a pot. Netta, whose name means 'plant' in Hebrew, and her family (who are also referred to by their Hebrew titles, such as 'Ima, ' for mother) are conscientious caregivers and, as book's refrain explains, 'The plant grew. Netta grew.' When the milestones of maturity--a big bed, a new brother, a new home, and kindergarten--feel overwhelming, Netta turns the plant into a living transitional object, comforting it as grownups comfort and encourage her. 'You don't have to be afraid, ' she tells the plant, echoing Ima. 'It will be OK, and in the new house you will have your own room.' Gellman's (Jeremy's Dreidel) gentle, serious prose conveys profound respect for Netta's unwavering stewardship as well as her changing emotional states. Ugliano (Benjamin and the Silver Goblet) is very much in sync, with quietly reassuring scenes of modern Jewish family life and characters whose thoughtful, open faces exude warmth and constancy. Ages 3-8. (Jan.) -- Publisher's Weekly-- "Journal"
'It's Tu B'Shevat today, ' the teacher explained. 'Your name, Netta, means 'plant, ' and now is the time to plant.' So opens this picture book about the Jewish New Year for Trees, celebrated on the fifteenth day of Shevat. Although Tu B'Shevat isn't explained within the text, a brief concluding afterword clarifies. At school, Netta and her teacher plant a seedling together on the holiday, then Netta brings it home to watch it grow. As Netta outgrows her crib, so the plant outgrows its pot. Soon her mother grows too, and Netta welcomes a little sister. The refrain 'The plant grew. Netta grew' continues throughout, all the way until the end, when the once former sapling is finally planted in the ground. Time passes quickly here, and a lot of different events occur, which may be confusing for some kids. Still, this is a fine introduction to the Jewish holiday and showcases the loving bond between Netta and her family. The softly shaded illustrations add additional warmth. -- Booklist-- "Journal"
While Hanukkah is about to begin, here's a head-up for Tu B'Shevat, and it's called Netta and Her Plant by Ellie B. Gellman, illustrated by Natascia Ugliano ($7.95 pb).
The book won't be generally available until this January, when its story will warm a winter's day (even though it marks a spring holiday).
Set in Israel, where Tu B'Shevat heralds spring, little Netta brings home a seedling in a pot, planted in her pre-school class.
She waters the plant, and it grows. She, too, grows. 'The plant grew. Netta grew, ' is the simple, unadorned refrain. Soon her family also grows and Netta is a big sister.
This is an endearing, warm story, so gently told, with soft, charming illustrations. Netta and her family are, in a word, irresistible.
You won't want to limit this book to the Tu B'Shevat holiday - it is good story-telling at all times of the year. -- Chicago Jewish Star