Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale

Simon and the Bear9781423143550_p0_v2_s260x420Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale

Eric A. Kimmel, Author

Matthew Trueman, Illustrator

Disney Hyperion Books, Fiction, Sept. 2, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Pages: 40

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.

The Kvetch Who Stole Hanukkah

The Kvetch Who Stole Hanukkah

Bill Berlin and Susan Isakoff Berlin, authors

Peter J. Welling, illustrator

Pelican Publishing Company, Fiction, Sept. 2010

Suitable for: Ages 5-8

Themes:  Hanukkah,  Jewish Fiction, Rhyme

Opening: In the town of Oyville, in a land far away, the children prepared for each holiday.  They read about Passover and the Red Sea parting. They learned of Rosh Hashanah and the New Year starting.  But the holiday that tickled every Vicki, Max and Monica, was the Festival of Lights in the season of Hanukkah.  They liked the presents, the food, and the cheer; They liked the night when the family drew near.  They picture Judah Maccabee, his bravery and toil.  They imagined the Temple, it lights needing oil.  When the menorah shone bright, its message was clear: “A great miracle happened here.”  Not everyone in Oyville liked the celebration of Hanukkah.  Every year the town Kvetch (someone who is gloomy and complains) hated the holiday even more.  The Kvetch steals all the menorahs on the first night of Hanukkah until three children teach him the true meaning of the festival of lights.

Why I like this book:  Although it is reminiscent of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, this really is a book that both Jewish and non-Jewish children will enjoy.  Written in verse, it is filled with clever  Yiddish terms like latkes, dreidels, gelt and the kvetch.  The book is simple and Welling’s illustrations are colorful and quirky.  And it carries a profound universal message.  There are many Hanukkah books in print, but I found this one a lot of fun!   Hanukkah begins at sundown on December 20 and ends December 28.

Activity:  Visit http://www.lookstein.org/resources/chanukah_activities.htm  and http://abcteach.com/directory/seasonalholidays/hanukkah/ for activities and resources.   For more books with resources please visit Perfect Picture Books.