November 22, 2018

Meet the Latkes

Written and illustrated by Alan Silberberg
Viking Books for Young Readers
36 pp.
Ages 3-6
October 2018

If it's American Thanksgiving, then you know that the holiday season, creeping upon us ever earlier, is here.  So, just in time for this year's Hanukkah, which starts on December 2, is Alan Silberberg's picture book Meet the Latkes about a family of fried potato pancakes who are ready to celebrate, dreidel and menorah in hand.

There's Mama and Papa, daughter Lucy and her dog, Applesauce, older son Lex, and Grandpa. 
They're just like you and me. Except they're potato pancakes!
As Lucy and Applesauce start to get excited for the first night of Hanukkah, grumpy Grandpa corrects Lucy's pronunciation of the celebration. She says Hanukkah. He says Chanukah. The ever wise Applesauce informs them both that since the holiday's name is Hebrew, it is said and spelled different ways in English. Lesson #1.

As the family, minus the sullen teen Lex, cooks and sings and decorates the house, their celebrations begin and Grandpa takes Lucy, his little latke, onto his lap to tell her about the miracle of Chanukah. His story may be a little different from those typically told. Grandpa's story starts with Mega-Bees "who buzzed and stung and fought to keep our people safe" and the bravest bee was Judah Mega-Bee who helped fight the alien potatoes from Planet Chhhhh. Applesauce, drawing from his font of knowledge, attempts to correct Grandpa Latke with every outlandish detail of his Chanukah story. He tries to set Grandpa, and avid listener Lucy, straight but his endeavours to mention the Maccabees and Judah Maccabee and king Antiochus are totally disregarded.
"Feh!" says Grandpa. "Whose story is this?"
In Grandpa's story, Judah and the Mega-Bees are trapped by "those evil tater tyrants" from Planet Chhhhh with only enough honey for one day. They construct a gigantic wooden dreidel, hiding inside, until they burst forth and "sliced and whipped and mashed those tater tyrants into tatters." And with some egg, onion and flour, Judah creates potato latkes.
From Meet the Latkes by Alan Silberberg
But with Applesauce telling the true story of Hanukkah, which Grandpa eventually acknowledges as a far better miracle, yet another miracle happens. (Parents of teens will understand.)
From Meet the Latkes by Alan Silberberg
Meet the Latkes may be a silly story of a potato latke family sharing the story of Hanukkah but it's actually very informative. By having Grandpa tell his story, as an alternative to Applesauce's correct version, as well as including an appendix with glossary about the true story of Chanukah, Alan Silberberg gives us many a laugh while teaching about this holiday. But forget for a moment the educational value of Meet the Latkes and instead think about the achievement Alan Silberberg has made by writing and illustrating a story in which potato pancakes are the stars. His characters have clear voices of senior drollness, youthful naïveté, canine frustration, teen moodiness and more. And they're potato latkes! It all comes through their words, eyes and smiles (or lack thereof) and Alan Silberberg's cartoons, filled with action and exclamations, bubble comments and commentaries, and colour and wacky shapes.

Take your children or students to Meet the Latkes for a Hanukkah, or Chanukah, like no other.

1 comment:

  1. What a delightful idea for a story. I love latkes and having them as the characters is so clever. Kids will enjoy this story!!