Sunday, December 6, 2015

Latkes, Latkes Good to Eat, a Chanukah Story written and illustrated by Naomi Howland

Today is the first day of Chanukah and I would like to share a book that I have always liked.  Sadie and her four younger brothers Herschel, Hillel, Hayim and baby Max have been left home alone while their mama is taking care of their Aunt Rose.  Living on the outskirts of a small village, the family is very poor and always hungry.

It's very cold on the first night of Chanukah, but when Sadie asks each of the older boys to go and collect some wood for a fire, they all refuse to help out,  Sadie heads out to the forest to get the wood herself.

While there, she meets a old woman who is very cold and who says she has no fire wood.  Sadie gives what she has collected to the woman and in return, the old woman gives Sadie a frying pan.  She tells Sadie that when her family is hungry, she must whisper the words
                     " Latkes, latkes, good to eat
                      Cook me up a Chanukah treat."

and when they have eaten enough, she must whisper
                       "A great miracle happened here!"

The only proviso is that only Sadie may use the frying pan.

Sure enough, each night pf Chanukah the frying pan makes as many latkes as Sadie and her brothers can eat.

On the last night of Chanukah, Sadie decides to invite the old woman to share the latke feast.  But while she is gone, her brothers decide to try out making some latkes for themselves.  Herschel, Hillel, and Hayim all claim they heard Sadie say the magic words, but once them have their fill of latkes, there is disagreement over the words used to stop the frying pan.

Needless to say, they are soon inundated with tasty, good-smelling latkes all over the house, overflowing into the front yard.  Soon even Sadie can smell them deep in the forest, and ever the townspeople are attracted to such a warm tasty treat.

But with so many latkes, can the boys' greed be turned into generosity and sharing?

Latkes, Latkes Good to Eat has been one of my favorite holiday books.  It read in part like a folktale, in part like a parable.  According to Naomi Howland, the story is based on an old Grimm's fairytale called "The Magic Porridge Pot" and makes for a very interesting reinterpretation of that story, placing it in Russian shtetl.  But there is a lot of similarity to the Chanukah story itself, when a small jar of oil miraculously lasted for eight days.  The illustrations, which are done in earth tones using gouache and colored pencils, help to give the story a sense of time and place, particularly the lovely border design on some of the pages.

I grew up in a neighborhood in Brooklyn where a lot of my friends celebrated Chanukah and I was always lucky enought to be invited to enjoy the evenings lighting of the candles, singing some Chanukah song and eating some really wonderful homemade latkes.  Howland has included a recipe for making latkes, something I've never tried myself but am tempted to now.

In her note at the end of the book, Howland explains that the words "A great miracle happened here" that stopped that latke making are also the same words that you would find on the four sides of a dreidel.

Latkes, Latkes Good to Eat is a wonderful read-aloud for children celebrating Chanukah, but it is also an excellent work for introducing young readers to cultures not their own.

This book is recommended for readers age 4+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

Wishing everyone a very Happy Chanukah!

This is book 1 of my #Readukkah Reading Challenge for celebrating Chanukah hosted by the Association of Jewish Libraries

1 comment:

  1. This is a perfect review for #Readukkah, the Jewish Reading Challenge!


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