This Hanukkah tale is deeply intertwined with its New York setting.
New Yorkers know that just about anything can be found in New York City: a waterfall in the middle of the block, a tiny museum in an elevator, lox-flavored ice cream. New York is full of miracles, and this book is nothing but miracles. Put on a ship by his parents after the rise of the Nazis in Europe, Oskar arrives in New York on the seventh day of Hanukkah (it is also Christmas Eve) and must walk 100 blocks uptown from Battery Park to the home of an aunt he doesn’t know. As he walks up Broadway, a woman hands him bread, and a young boy hands him mittens. Oskar whistles a duet, on the spur of the moment, with a man whom a poster reveals to be Count Basie. (Eleanor Roosevelt also makes a cameo.) These things happen in New York. When he said goodbye, Oskar’s father told him: “even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings.” The blessings here are so bountiful that readers may not be surprised even when a newsstand vendor gives Oskar a copy of the very first Superman comic. Siegel’s paneled illustrations make anything seem possible. The people don’t look quite real, and they don’t look like cartoons. They look like chalk drawings on a sidewalk, just starting to fade. They glow.
People used to say that the streets of America were paved with gold, and this book almost makes you believe it. (historical note, map) (Picture book. 4-8)