Meet the Latkes
Meet the Latkes
But Lucy can see it now: Judah and his swarm of giant bees, BUZZING and STINGING and FIGHTING to save the Jewish temple and the lives of everyone who worshiped there.
Potato latkes don’t usually talk, but inMeet the Latkes, Alan Silberberg’s first picture book, the starchy pancakes come to life and tell the story of Chanukah in a creative and humorous way.
Silberberg, who hails from Boston but now lives in Montreal, is the winner of the Sid Fleishman Humour Award for his middle grade novel Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze. (https://umanitoba.ca/outreach/cm/vol17/no35/milo.html) A writer and animator for Nickelodeon and Disney, Silberberg injects just enough silliness into his stories to keep young children interested and laughing.
In his latest work, the Latke family is arguing about the story of Chanukah, as the Grandpa calls it, or Hanukkah, as Lucy Latke insists. Grandpa goes on to invent an outsized tale about bees (Macca-bees) besting an invasion of alien potatoes from the Planet Chhh and who were left with only a day’s supply of honey in their hive.
Lucy swallows Grandpa’s story, to the consternation of the family dog, which is named for the traditional accompaniment to fried latkes, applesauce. Applesauce is the exasperated referee who informs Lucy and the reader of the accepted story, that the Maccabees protected the Jewish temple from the evil King Antiochus and defeated him and his powerful armies. The temple had only one day’s oil left, but in what is considered a miracle, the oil burned for eight days until the supply could be replenished. That’s why Chanukah is eight days long and candles are lit for each day of the holiday.
The book’s design, which combine cartoon bubbles and text, is spaced evenly on the bright white page so that the narrative is easy to follow. The illustrations of the Macca-bees, Antiochus, the burning temple, etc., complement the text so children will want to examine them. The Latke family is very spud-like, but with human qualities, especially Lucy’s brother Lex, a teenager, and you know what they look like. The only character that’s hard to discern is Applesauce who is brown and lumpy and also very potato-like. He needs a little red peel or big apple chunks for the reader to be able to identify him separately from the other members of the household.
Meet the Latkes will appeal to families who are all-in for the story of Chanukah, including the religious elements. Some terms are not explained directly, such as “the gelt gets gobbled” - “gelt” means money, but on the next page the reader sees Lucy eating chocolate money. With repetition, children will intuit the meaning and understand the story through the context.
Harriet Zaidman loves latkes with applesauce. Her novel, City on Strike, about the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, will be released by Red Deer Press next year. She writes children’s books and lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.