In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hanukkah surprise

Dear Annie,

It was so delightful to see you and yours over Thanksgiving.  I already feel like that was quite a while ago.  The toy store is gearing up to full holiday mode: we're close to sold out of advent calendars, and sales are brisk enough in both toys and books that we know which hot items won't last until Christmas.  And the first night of Hanukkah is only ten days away.

Both those holidays have to do with finding comfort and joy in unexpected places.  I've been happily surprised by the discovery of not joy exactly, but satisfaction, from an unlikely book.  It's a Curious George knock-off -- there's a multi-level industry of CG-related books and cartoons that were never imagined by his creators, H.A. and Margret Rey.  I'm not very fond of  them -- although I carry a few of the better ones.  But Happy Hanukkah, Curious George, a board book written by Emily Flaschner Meyer, fulfills its purpose quite nicely. 

The two- or three year-old setting off to Hanukkah celebrations with the relatives will get the entire rundown of what's going to happen, and a little advice on thinking about others too.  Each page of the book, marked by a tab, hits one event, starting with George and the Man in the Yellow Hat (hatless) wrapping gifts.  They arrive at a party, light the menorah, play dreidel, make latkes and clean up -- most of it in straightforward rhyme.  Except for a more chant-able cooking scene:

On the last page, George washes dishes and learns about "doing helpful mitzvahs/All throughout the year."

It's not literature by any stretch, but it's oddly endearing -- I don't think I'm doing a very good job at explaining why.  It's offering a little help for a new situation.

And even though this is a knockoff decades after the Reys died, it seems right that Curious George is celebrating Hanukkah.  In 1940, the Reys were German Jews living in Paris: they fled the city on bicycles the day the Nazis marched in.  They carried a few belongings and the manuscript for a book about a monkey named Fifi.  After they arrived in the U.S., Fifi changed to George, and the book empire began.



No comments:

Post a Comment