12.13.2011

Pancake City: The Golem's Latkes

When I first saw The Golem's Latkes I was skeptical. First, because I find the concept of the Golem a little creepy and second, because I confess I have failed to find many picture books about the Jewish holidays that inspire me. The ones I find in the library all seem to either feel the need to recount every historical detail of the event in full or are about spiders (Sammy, anyone?).

I don't read books about spiders. No matter how good other people say they are. Period.

But I digress.

In Eric Kimmel's latest Hanukkah offering, The Golem's Latkes, Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague crafts the legendary Golem from clay, writes a magical word on his forehead and then sets him to work with household chores. When his housemaid, Basha, requests the Golem to help her get ready for Hanukkah, the Rabbi reluctantly agrees but warns her not to leave the Golem alone or he will never stop working. Basha, impressed by the Golem's cooking skills, instructs him to continue making latkes while she pops out to gossip with her friend. Just for a minute, you understand. The Golem, true to his clay-for-brains form, makes latkes enough to fill the streets of Prague. When Rabbi Judah finally commands him to stop there are enough latkes to have what is essentially a city-wide latke block party -- for eight days. The story ends on the anticipatory high note while Basha contemplates if the Golem may also be skilled in the art of making hamantaschen for Purim.

I'm not an expert on either the Golem or on Jewish narratives so I will not make any authoritative statements about whether or not Rudolf II would actually attend a Hanukkah party given by Rabbi Loew (although I believe he was rather cosmopolitan), or whether or not the Golem would be set to work making latkes in lieu of defending the Jewish ghettos. Not to mention: hello? where did all the potatoes come from? I'm sure there are many narratives and many incarnations of the Golem and his story, so why not have a little fun with it.

The Golem's Latkes is an exceptionally fun read aloud for the holiday. It's playful, quirky and fortunately Aaron Jasiski's Golem is more cute than he is creepy. The setting of medieval Prague can't be beat and I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't like to attend a party with limitless latkes and wagons full of sour cream.

Latkes: they bring people together.

Want More?
The Whole Megillah has a lightening fast pros and cons of the book.
The New York Times likens the book to Disney's Sorcerer's Apprentice.
Eric Kimmel has written loads of other books: find out about them on his website.

Big Kid says: Are you making latkes this year?
Little Kid says: This is the book about cookies.

4 comments:

Even in Australia said...

We like this one too. And I can't stand Sammy Spider. Nothing against spiders, here - it's his condescending mother I can't stand. "Silly little Sammy. Spiders don't [play dreidel/have a seder/Jewish activity]; speiders spin webs."

Raising a Happy Child said...

Golem and Latkes? Interesting combination! I might review some of our Hanukkah favorites this weekend.

Anamaria (bookstogether) said...

I just read Kimmel's Hershel and the Hannukah Goblins this year, and while I loved Trina Schart Hyman's illustrations, as always, I didn't love the book. Will try this one next year!

Sylvia Liu said...

Thanks for this review. I have a similar reaction to the Jewish stories we read to our children. I'll definitely check this out, and I'll be bookmarking this blog.

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