Read On!

Mrs. Farquharson’s musings about books for children and young adults

Seasons Readings

December7

Trees

As I was going through my archives, I found this post that I published on December 6, 2013. This author and these books are as important today as they were then, and I’m confident that they will be just as charming in the future

One of my favorite authors to share with children is Patricia Polacco. She writes from her heart directly to her readers’ hearts. This is certainly the case with her holiday-themed books.

Many of Polacco’s stories are based on her own family’s stories and background. When Patricia was a child, her parents were divorced. She spent the school year living with her mother and summers with her father. Her mother’s family celebrated Hanukkah, and one of Patricia’s masterpieces is The Trees of the Dancing Goats. In this poignant tale, the author tells about a year when her family demonstrated the true meaning of giving when they made Christmas happen for their neighbors.

ChristmasAnother of Polacco’s tales that transcends both Hanukkah and Christmas is The Christmas Tapestry. In this book, the author shares the story of a minister and his family who revitalize a crumbling church. Just before Christmas, they buy a tapestry to hang in the sanctuary. When they share a wintery ride with an elderly woman, they are reminded of the persecution that others experienced during WWII because of religion.

In the following clip, Polacco talks about listening to her family stories.

Seasons Readings

November30

dreidel

From my archives…

One of my favorite Hanukkah books that was published in 2015 is the picture book version of The Parakeet Named Dreidel (Farrar Straus Giroux). Suzanne Raphael Berkson has illustrated Isaac Bashevis Singer’s short story to introduce it to today’s young readers.

 

Born in Poland, Isaac Bashevis Singer spent much of the first third of his life in Warsaw.  It was fortuitous that he emigrated to the United States in 1935 when he grew fearful of the growing Nazi threat in Germany. He became an important figure in writing, especially in the Yiddish literary movement. This talented author wrote for adults, young adults, and children. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978. Singer was also honored with two U.S. National Book awards, and one of these was in Children’s Literature.

 

The Parakeet Named Dreidel first appeared in Singer’s book of short stories, The Power of Light. Years ago, I read this short story to children for years. Suzanne Raphael Berkson’s illustrations and book is a wonderful avenue for today’s children to be introduced to this captivating Hanukkah story.

 

A Brooklyn family is celebrating Hanukkah when David and his father notice a beautiful parakeet sitting on their frosty windowsill. To get the bird out of the cold, they open the window and shoo him into their home. The bird must have accidentally flown out of his own home, and he speaks Yiddish phrases, especially one where he says the name Zeldele over and over. When the family fails to find the parakeets owners, they adopt him and name him Dreidel. Years later, David is in college and very attracted to one of his friends, Zelda. One night at a party, he recounts the story of how he acquired his parakeet. Zelda is overwhelmed because it was her lost bird of which David is speaking. The story ends quite happily because David and Zelda marry, and both families continue to enjoy their beloved pet.

 

Isaac Beshevis Singer depicted two ideals of Jewish values upon which he was raised – kindness to animals and returning lost objects to their owners. …And he did this in a charming story.

(Picture from notablebiographies.com)

 

 

Seasons Readings

December16

Every fall, publishers tout their new holiday books for children. Some years, there are a plethora of wonderful titles while in other years, the quality varies. In my opinion, this year is one of the leaner publishing years, but there are a few titles that I would like to share for your family’s holiday reading. The first two books mentioned below are for the younger set.

nonnaNonna’s Hanukkah Surprise by Karen Fisman, illustrated by Martha Avilés (Kar-Ben) is a delightful story of a young girl who looks forward to sharing the traditions of Hanukkah with her extended family. When she forgets her special menorah on the plane, she worries that Hanukkah will be ruined. Her Nonna comes to the rescue.

lightsEllis Paul celebrates the season with his title The Night the Lights Went Out on Christmas (Whitman), and it is illustrated by Scott Brundage. One family began putting a few holiday decorations in their yard and on their house. Then their neighbors joined in, and a friendly competition began. Before long, the neighborhood became a seasonal destination for folks to see the lights. One night, one light too many is lit and then…

mazelMisha, a poor artist, has no one with whom to celebrate Hanukkah until he discovers a hungry cat in his barn. In A Hanukkah with Mazel by Joel Edward Stein, illustrated by Elisa Vavouri (Kar-Ben), readers learn that there are many ways to appreciate the generosity and wonder of the season.

bootThe extraordinary art of illustrator Jerry Pinkney is featured in The Christmas Boot by Lisa Wheeler (Dial). Hannah Greyweather’s life is changed when she finds a magic wish-granting boot in the forest outside her home.

Seasons Readings

December4

dreidelOne of my favorite Hanukkah books that was published this year is the picture book version of The Parakeet Named Dreidel (Farrar Straus Giroux). Suzanne Raphael Berkson has illustrated Isaac Bashevis Singer’s short story to introduce it to today’s young readers.

 

Born in Poland, Isaac Bashevis Singer spent much of the first third of his life in Warsaw. . It was fortuitous that he emigrated to the United States in 1935 when he grew fearful of the growing Nazi threat in Germany. He became an important figure in writing, especially in the Yiddish literary movement. This talented author wrote for adults, young adults, and children. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978. Singer was also honored with two U.S. National Book awards, and one of these was in Children’s Literature.

 

The Parakeet Named Dreidel first appeared in Singer’s book of short stories, The Power of Light. Years ago, I read this short story to children for years. Suzanne Raphael Berkson’s illustrations and book is a wonderful avenue for today’s children to be introduced to this captivating Hanukkah story.

 

A Brooklyn family is celebrating Hanukkah when David and his father notice a beautiful parakeet sitting on their frosty windowsill. To get the bird out of the cold, they open the window and shoo him into their home. The bird must have accidently flown out of his own home, and he speaks Yiddish phrases, especially one where he says the name Zeldele over and over. When the family fails to find the parakeets owners, they adopt him and name him Dreidel. Years later, David is in college and very attracted to one of his friends, Zelda. One night at a party, he recounts the story of how he acquired his parakeet. Zelda is overwhelmed because it was her lost bird of which David is speaking. The story ends quite happily because David and Zelda marry, and both families continue to enjoy their beloved pet.

 

Isaac Beshevis Singer depicted two ideals of Jewish values upon which he was raised – kindness to animals and returning lost objects to their owners. …And he did this in a charming story.

(Picture from notablebiographies.com)

 

 

Holiday Tales

December12

There have been many memorable holiday books published in 2014. There are often new titles by celebrated authors like Eric Kimmel (Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale, Hyperion, 2014) and Jan Brett (The Animals’ Santa, Putnam, 2014). It’s always a pleasure to discover titles that are new gems and revisit some stories that are old favorites.

O. Henry’s short story, “The Gift of the Magi”, was first published in The New York Sunday World on December 10, 1905. It has now become a classic tale of a young couple that secretly sell their most treasured possessions in order to purchase a holiday gift for each other. Jim sells his grandfather’s pocket watch to buy a set of jeweled combs for Della’s waist length hair. On the same day, Della cut and sold her hair to purchase a platinum fob chain for Jim’s prized watch.

borisDara Goldman brings this story to children with her picture book, Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift (Sleeping Bears Press, 2013). Boris and Stella are bears who feel blessed to have found each other. The picture book depicts a year when the last night of Hanukkah happens to be on Christmas Eve. Boris sells his dreidel collection that he brought from his homeland, Russia, to buy a magnificent glass star for Stella’s potted tree. Stella sold the tree that had been started by her family in Italy to buy Boris a special dreidel. As in “The Gift of the Magi”, the characters understand that the most precious gift is their love for each other.

redThis year is the 50th anniversary of the television Christmas special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. There is a “Deluxe Anniversary Edition” of Rudolph that is based on the show. Robert Lewis May wrote the original Rudolph story about growing up being different. He worked for Montgomery Ward as an advertising copywriter, and in 1939 the company asked him to write a “cheery” book for their stores. Rudolph was born. May wrote to sequels, that were published posthumously, Rudolph’s Second Christmas and Rudolph to the Rescue. Gene Autrey recorded the musical version of May’s work, and now Rudolph has “…gone down in history”.

Seasons Readings

December6

TreesOne of my favorite authors to share with children is Patricia Polacco. She writes from her heart directly to her readers’ hearts. This is certainly the case with her holiday themed books.

Many of Polacco’s stories are based on her own family’s stories and background.When Patricia was a child, her parents were divorced. She spent the school year living with her mother and summers with her father. Her mother’s family celebrated Hanukkah, and one of Patricia’s masterpieces is The Trees of the Dancing Goats. In this poignant tale, the author tells about a year when her family demonstrated the true meaning of giving when they made Christmas happen for their neighbors.

ChristmasAnother of Polacco’s tales that transcends both Hanukkah and Christmas is The Christmas Tapestry. In this book, the author shares the story of a minister and his family who revitalize a crumbling church. Just before Christmas, they buy a tapestry to hang in the sanctuary. When they share a wintery ride with an elderly woman, they are reminded of the persecution that others experienced during WWII because of religion.

In the following clip, Polacco talks about listening to her family stories.

Seasons Readings

November22

Elijah's AngelOne of my favorite books for the holiday season (or any other time) is Elijah’s Angel by Michael J. Rosen, illustrated by Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson (HBJ, 1992). This story appeals to me on so many levels. Families who celebrate Chanukah and Christmas can all relate to the meaning of their holidays. As a fan of folk art and outsider art, I enjoy introducing Elijah Pierce (1892-1984) to our students.

Elijah was a woodcarver, barber, and deeply religious man. During his lifetime, this humble craftsman was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. His woodcarvings are owned privately and in museum collections.

Michael Rosen, the author, met Elijah Pierce as a youngster, and he has shared his friendship with Elijah in this story. As a young friend of the woodcarver, Michael was enthralled with Elijah’s work. However, when Elijah gave Michael the gift of an angel during the Christmas season, Michael was conflicted. He didn’t feel that he could accept it because Michael was Jewish, and his family didn’t own “graven images”. Michael’s supportive parents helped him celebrate the true meaning of Chanukah, Christmas, and friendship.

The illustrator of Elijah’s Angel also knew Elijah Pierce. Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson became his friend and student. Her illustrations are in a folk art style.

In the following trailer, Elijah describes his craft.

Celebrating Hanukkah in Picture Books

December13

Whenever I am asked for recommendations for Hanukkah books to read to children, the first author whom I recommend is always Eric Kimmel. His books fascinate young and old because he is a gifted storyteller, and some of his books are based on Hanukkah themes. I am probably partial to Eric because he understands what makes a good story. His background includes work as an elementary school teacher, librarian, and college professor who taught language arts, children’s literature, and storytelling. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins was awarded a Caldecott Honor Medal. Kimmel is also the only author who has won the National Jewish Book Award for picture books twice. The illustrators with whom he has collaborated are an impressive group too.

While he has written collections of short stories for Hanukkah, my favorites are some of his individual titles.

The Channukah Guest illustrated by Giora Carmi (Holiday House, 1992)

Asher and the Capmakers : A Hanukkah Story illustrated by Will Hillenbrand (Holiday House, 1993)

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (Holiday House, 1994)

The Magic Dreidels : A Hanukkah Story illustrated by Katya Krenina (Holiday House, 1997)

The Golem’s Latkes illustrated by Aaron Jasinski (Marshall Cavendish Children, 2011)

This acclaimed and talented storyteller has written numerous other folk tales, trickster tales, fairy tale adaptations, and Christmas stories…but, those are a subject for another time.

Happy Hanukkah!

Season’s Readings: Hanukkah

December5

Eric Kimmel is a talented author who has written many books. He is one of the few authors who creates entertaining books to share with elementary school children during Hanukkah. His newest adaptation of The Golem’s Latkes, is as engaging as his previous works. He tells the story of Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel who leaves his Golem with a new housemaid. All is well when Basha stays with the Golem. She goes to visit friends when Golem is making latkes. The Golem never knows when to stop, and when he isn’t ordered to do so, disaster strikes. Young readers will enjoy this tale of too many latkes; it may remind them of Tomie DePaola’s book, Strega Nona.

Kimmel’s other Hanukkah books are just as delightful. An elderly woman mistakes a hungry bear for her rabbi in The Channukah Guest. Jacob is swindled out of special dreidels in The Magic Dreidels. Hershel helps a village that is haunted by goblins who won’t allow them to celebrate Hanukkah in Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins.

Do check out Eric Kimmel’s books whatever the season!


 

 



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