Streets Filled With Latkes?

No matter what your religious affiliation (if any), Hanukkah tales full of light or magic offer a special glow this time of year.  I’ve known such joy reading stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer, as well as those by children’s book authors Eric A. Kimmel, Barbara Diamond Goldin, and Howard Schwartz. Kimmel’s most recent picture book, The Golem’s Latkes, is worth celebrating. Blending elements of Jewish folktales and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Kimmel concocts a humorous, well-paced plot, enhanced with bright, lively illustrations and a concise author’s note on significant Hebrew words that appear in the story.

Rabbi Judah makes a giant man of clay who doesn’t know when to quit. Just before the first night of Hanukkah, the rabbi must go speak to the emperor. He tells his new maid Basha to  clean the house and cook lots of latkes while he’s gone, for he’s expecting many guests. Although the rabbi has never allowed anyone else to supervise the golem, he decides to make an exception this time, considering all the tasks she must manage. He warns Basha, however, not to leave the golem alone. The giant will work incessantly unless someone tells him “Enough!”

Of course, the young woman does not heed his warning — and chaos ensues. The golem makes so many latkes they literally take over the street! Kimmel’s happy ending has everyone in the village sharing the feast.

For more wondrous Hanukkah stories, consider …

“The Magic Menorah” in Howard Schwartz’s fine collection The Day the Rabbi Disappeared: Jewish Holiday Tales of Magic. Recommended for ages 8-12.

Hanukkah Moon by Deborah da Costa. A girl visits her aunt Luisa, whose Latina-Jewish customs include a dreidel pinata. There’s also a mysterious late-night visit to welcome the luna nueva, the new moon that appears on Hanukkah. Ages 6 to 8.

Just Enough Is Plenty by Barbara Diamond Goldin. A magical story of kindness rewarded. A poor family welcomes a stranger into their home, and the peddlar turns out to be Elijah, who leaves them a pack of fine gifts. Ages 7 to 10.

And see my post featuring Eric Kimmel’s When Mindy Saved Hanukkah and other great Hanukkah picture books for ages 6-10.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Joanne Rocklin
    Dec 15, 2011 @ 16:02:49

    I love the book Golem’s Latkes and just read it to a group of children in our Temple’s library this past weekend. Lovely, helpful review. Thank you!


    • Janice Floyd Durante
      Dec 15, 2011 @ 17:16:53

      You’re welcome, Joanne. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed reading this aloud; I particularly like how Kimmel repeats the phrase about the golem washing, chopping and frying the potatoes. I can just imagine asking children to demonstrate those actions as they hear the story. What fun!


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