Subtitled ""A Chanukah Tale,"" the story of a bent little man who comes to the Hoffman residence on the last night of the holiday to sell ties. He alludes to the family he lost in ""the war"" and tells seven-year-old Seth that as a boy he watched the candles of the menorah, ""believing that if they all went out at exactly the same instant, those nine little columns of smoke"" would carry his wishes to God. That night, Seth witnesses just such an event and wishes for the tie man to be reunited with his family. This book is full of hints and possibilities, related in a hesitant narrative and driven by a combination of sorrow and hope. Johnson (Alphabet City, p. 1430) creates pale watercolor portraits, in the style of Barry Moser's earliest work, skillfully capturing the elderly man's posture and the Hoffman's suburban home.