Monday, December 14, 2015

The Spotted Pony: A Collection of Hanukkah Stories edited by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Leonard Everett Fisher

The last candle in the Menorah was lit last night and today is the last day of Hanukkah.  Eight days sure do go by quickly.  The Spotted Pony is my last #Readukkah for this year and I saved it for last on purpose.  

In his introduction to the book, Eric Kimmel tells us what a wonderful storyteller his grandmother was and how much he wanted to be just like her.  Especially welcomed were his grandmother's Hanukkah stories, one told on each night after lighting the candles, and Kimmel wanted to follow in her storytelling footsteps.  If you look at Kimmel's resumé, you will see that he, too, is a very accomplished storyteller, certainly one his grandmother would be proud of.

The Spotted Pony is a collection of eight tales, one for each night of Hanukkah, edited and retold by Kimmel, and each story begins with a Shammes, a brief introduction to what the story is about.  There are tales about wise men,  heroes, fools and tricksters, like Hershel of Ostropol in When Hershel Eats (the Seventh Night tale).  In it, Hershel figures out how to trick the Reb Shimon out of his dinner.  Reb Shimon would invited one person to his house for Friday night dinner, but he would pester them with so many questions, they never got to eat any of the food at the far end of the table before the servants took it away.  When Reb Shimon sees Hershel of Ostropol one Friday, he invites Hershel to dinner.  Did Hershel become a victim of the Reb Shimon's mean trick?  Well, it takes a trickster to know a trickster, doesn't it?  

In The Wonderful Shamir, wise King Solomon must find a solution to building the Holy Temple in Jerusalem without using anything made of iron as per the Lord's command.  He hears about a creature called a shamir, no bigger than a barleycorn, that has the power to slip massive stones.  Benayahu, a brave man in Israel, volunteers to seek out the demon Ashmodai to find out where the shamir can be found and then flying on the back of an albatross to find it, carrying only a piece of cut glass.  What is the glass for?  Benayahu was not only brave, but wise and he did bring the shamir back to Jerusalem, but just how exactly did he manage to do it?  Read on...

Those are just two of the wonderful tales in this book, but I have to admit my favorite was the tale told for the Eight Night of Hanukkah, The Spotted Pony.  This is a tale about kindness, loyalty, and letting go and should be read to be appreciated.

I loved the black and white realistic illustrations throughout each story, mostly because artist Leonard Fisher has really captured the true sense of these old folktales.  And even though the tales in The Spotted Pony aren't strictly about Hanukkah, they are folktales that will entertain and help readers celebrate the Festival of Lights each night.  And while the stories are from Jewish tradition, they can be read and appreciated by anyone. 

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

I hope everyone had a very Happy Hanukkah!

This is book 4 of my #Readukkah Reading Challenge for celebrating Chanukah hosted by the Association of Jewish Libraries

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