Happy Hanukkah! Here’s a quick break from my Cybils reviews for this beautiful new Hanukkah book.
All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah by Emily Jenkins and Paul O. Zelinksy. Schwartz & Wade Books/Penguin Random House, 2018.
I remember finding and loving the All-of-a-Kind Family books as a child – the first novels with Jewish main characters that I (going to a Lutheran school at the time) had ever read. It wasn’t until much later that I learned that they were the first mainstream children’s books with Jewish leads.
I found Paul O. Zelinksy a bit later, with his lovely versions of Rumpelstiltskin and Rapunzel. Emily Jenkins wrote Brave Red, Smart Frog and is one of the co-authors on the Upside Down Magic series that my daughter has been obsessed with this year. This collaboration, a new story with the classic characters, isn’t what I would have expected from either of them, and yet I found it so delightful that I’ve been pushing it on everyone.
The story is told from Gertie, the youngest’s, point of view. She’s really excited for the first night of Hanukkah, 1912, and wants to help Mama and her sisters make the latkes. Unfortunately, this involves sharp tools and boiling fat, so she’s sent to her room in a very bad mood. (My daughter was filled with righteous indignation on Gertie’s behalf here – surely four is old enough to use at least the potato peeler!) Papa comes to the rescue, with humor that made me laugh out loud at work, and finds a very special job for Gertie. The next-to-last line is one I’ve seen in every review, but I’m putting it in anyway because it is just that good:
“The latkes taste of history and freedom, of love and crispy potato.”
Zelinksy’s art, rather than the polished Renaissance art I expect from him, is rough and flat, echoing (as he says in his notes) the Expressionist style that was popular at the time. While I could see that in the pictures, it also works well to illustration Gertie’s passionate nature and makes the story feel current and approachable despite the historical setting.
I see, too, that at least the first of the original series is available as an audiobook from Overdrive, which means my daughter and I could listen to it in the car. Hooray!
But wait! There’s more!