By: Lemony Snicket
Publication Date: October 2007
Reviewed by: Miriam Leventhal
Review Date: November 2008
A latke makes a quick getaway from a frying pan hoping to challenge its fate, and so begins this Chanukah adventure. Along its journey, the latke encounters a Christmas tree, Christmas lights and a candy cane. Lemony Snicket's, The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: a Christmas Story, is a clever tale that offers a cursory overview of the history and meaning of Chanukah; simultaneously presenting a unique perspective of how it feels to celebrate a holiday that has no affiliation to the tsunami of all holidays, Christmas.
Because of its proximity to Christmas, Chanukah is often thought to be the Jewish version of that holiday. The Latke who Couldn’t Stop Screaming provides the reader a tongue-in-cheek look into some of the real frustrations Jews face when dealing with misconceptions about Chanukah. The candy cane thinks that someone should write a carol about the latke; the Christmas lights, mistaking the delicacy for hash browns, envision the latke looking sublime next to a Christmas ham, and on it goes. The whimsical illustrations by Lisa Brown, keep the tale light, while the author vigorously repeats the theme that Chanukah is not related to Christmas. In the final pages of the story we see a Jewish family searching in the woods, the father holding an ax. When they come upon the perfect Christmas tree the family rejoices, but when the father peers under the tree and sees a latke, he is reminded of his own birthright. The importance of respecting one’s cultural heritage is brought to the fore.
The author details some of the differences between the two holidays, such as the fact that gifts play a minimal role in the Chanukah celebration, also noting that the menorah candles are not just for ornamentation, but that they symbolize the Jewish history of survival. The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming serves as a reminder to Jews of the power and beauty of their faith, while for non-Jews it is a primer, educating them about the differences between the two holidays. The overwhelming message is that all traditions are meaningful and unique, and must be honored as such. This tale is audacious and creative, and a welcomed addition to the holiday genre.
Quill says: A wonderful book for both children and parents that educates and entertains.