cover image Tikvah Means Hope

Tikvah Means Hope

Patricia Polacco. Doubleday Books for Young Readers, $15.95 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32059-7

Polacco's (Chicken Sunday) characteristically rich pencil and gouache artwork depict a neighborhood in her Oakland, Calif., hometown, showing how it weathered the devastating firestorms of 1992. Mr. Roth and his young neighbors Duane and Justine have built a Sukkah to celebrate Sukkoth, the Jewish festival of thanksgiving. But when the holiday begins, a hot wind breathes spreading brush fires into the Oakland hills. As flames engulf whole neighborhoods, hundreds of people must evacuate to nearby shelters. The Roths' pain is heightened when they cannot bring ther cat, Tikvah, to safety. When the families finally return home, they find only rubble. But the Sukkah, miraculously, stands unscathed. And, in another bit of good fortune, Tikvah also turns up. Polacco's ambitious story tries hard to accomplish many objectives. The combination of varied elements results in a rushed tone and uneven pacing, so that the religious or spiritual aspect seems particularly forced. Her drawings skillfully and emotionally convey the anguish of the suffering community, as well as its resilience and hopefulness. An author's note provides more factual information about the disaster. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)