A polar bear, a brave boy and an early-20th-century shipwreck play equal roles in this Hanukkah story filled with its own set of miracles.
Simon’s mother lovingly packs food for his voyage to America, including key elements so he can observe Hanukkah: “A little menorah, a box of candles, matches, a dreidel, and plenty of latkes.” The ship, badly damaged after hitting a giant iceberg, begins to sink. Simon generously gives up his spot on a lifeboat to a bearded man in a fur coat desperate to reach his son in New York. Alone, Simon leaps from the ship’s bow onto the iceberg and wonders if on this first night of Hanukkah a miracle might happen to save his life. Soon after, a polar bear climbs the iceberg. Though fearful, Simon shares food and lights the menorah—then sleeps cozily in the warmth of the bear’s fur. This sharing continues for a miraculous seven days until a passing ship’s crew rescues Simon on the last night of Hanukkah. As in the newly revised Hanukkah Bear, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka (2013), Kimmel effectively uses the large, furry beast to blend themes of miracles, faith and an innocent’s altruism. Trueman’s illustrations, a combination of collage, crushed paper cutouts and acrylics in icy blue tones, create glittery scenes of a desolate ocean offset by warm yellow glows from the menorah candles. His bear is particularly charming.
Old World storytelling in a sparkling, novel setting—a delight. (Picture book. 5-8)