Eric A. Kimmel, Author
Matthew Trueman, Illustrator
Disney Hyperion Books, Fiction, Sept. 2, 2014
Suitable for Ages: 3-7
Themes: Miracles, Survival, Shipwreck, Hanukkah, Jews, Polar Bear, Faith, Courage
Opening: “When Simon set out for America, he promised his mother and brothers and sisters that he would work hard and save money. As soon as he could, he would send tickets for all of them. Simon’s mother lovingly packed his knapsack for the journey…Because Hanukkah was coming, she added something extra.”
Book Synopsis: When Simon leaves his home in the old country, his mother reminds him to celebrate Hanukkah during his sea voyage: “Who knows? You may need a miracle on your long journey.” Turns out Simon does need a miracle. When the ship strikes an iceberg Simon is offered the last seat on a lifeboat, but selflessly offers it to a gentleman who has a son. As the ship sinks, Simon leaps onto the iceberg. Knowing he needs a miracle, he pulls out his menorah and lights the Shamash. A polar bear appears from the icy water. Simon shares some of his latkes and eggs with the bear. In turn the bear curls up and sleeps next to Simon, keeping him warm. Days pass, Simon runs out of food and has one last candle to light. Will Simon run out of miracles?
Why I like this book: There are never too many altruistic books for children during the holiday season and this one is perfect for Hanukkah. Eric A. Kimmel has written a heartwarming story for children that encourages faith and a belief in miracles, which is what Hanukkah is about. The story mirrors the ill-fated voyage of the Titanic. The plot is strong with just the right amount of tension to keep you turning the pages. Kimmel’s tale is filled with details of foods and traditions related to Hanukkah. Simon is a child filled with heart, faith and courage. Matthew Trueman’s illustrations are evocative and add considerably to the sacred mood of the story. His stunning double-page spreads of black and deep blues are contrasted with images of light in the darkness, symbolically suggesting miracles are possible. Beautiful collaborative work between author and illustrator.
Resources: An Author’s Note on the history of Hanukkah is included at the end. Jewish communities in the United States celebrate Hanukkah from Dec. 17-24. Visit the Lookstein Center for activities, poetry, games and projects.