The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming
by Lemony Snicket
Just hysterical. A latke runs screaming from the frying pan and encounters various Christmas icons along its path. As the latke explains what it is and its significance in the celebration of Hanukkah, it keeps getting compared to Christmas. And so it keeps screaming. Lemony Snicket actually gets in a fair bit about the meaning of Hanukkah, while keeping a wry tone throughout. For instance, as the latke explains in a long paragraph about being fried in oil — as a reference to the oil that was used to rededicate the temple and the miracle that made the oil last for eight nights — the answer it receives is par for the course:
“So you’re basically hash browns,” said the flashing colored lights. “Maybe you can be served alongside a Christmas ham.”And then it runs screaming, “AAAHHHHHHHHH!” for two pages. As my kids have grown past the traditional — and too often schmaltzy — Hannukkah stories, this one is our new family classic.
“I’m not hash browns!” cried the latke. “I’m something completely different!”
The Lump of Coal
by Lemony Snicket
On the same note, we’ve turned to this title to replace the cute Christmas stories that absorbed us in the past. It contains perhaps one of the most perfect opening sentences of all times:
The holiday season is a time for storytelling, and whether you are hearing the story of a candelabra staying lit for more than a week, or a baby born in a barn without proper medical supervision, these stories often feature miracles.A humble lump of coal longs to be something more and visits an art gallery and Korean barbecue in hopes of fulfilling his search for meaning. Instead, a drugstore Santa decides the lump will be the perfect thing for his stepson’s stocking — as punishment. But this ill intent goes right, as the coal finds his purpose in an artist’s hand. Wry, funny and odd, this book ends on just the right note for the holidays, and in echoing the first sentence, with miracles.
by Grace Lin
Lest you think I’m all about the wit, my third choice is not about either holiday, but it is about beauty, joy, and hope. The book features dozens of snowflake shapes decorated by famous children’s illustrators and gentle haikus for the winter season. The artwork created is amazing. Some illustrators featured their characters — like Ian Falconer’s Olivia and the dinosaurs of Mark Teague. Others contributed scenes of snow, skating, Santa, and lights. The real story within the book is the dedication of this group in auctioning the original snowflakes to fund cancer research. A lovely book that will be especially enjoyed by those who appreciate children’s book illustrators.
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