Good­night Bub­bala: A Joy­ful, Jew­ish, Not-So-Qui­et Par­o­dy of Good­night Moon

Sheryl Haft (auth.), Jill Weber (illus.)

  • Review
By – December 3, 2019

In the great green room, there was, instead of a tele­phone and red bal­loon, a Jew­ish fam­i­ly about to cel­e­brate Hanukkah. Although there have been oth­er par­o­dies, rang­ing from wit­ty to rude, this one is a decid­ed­ly joy­ful” exer­cise in yid­dishkeit, star­ring an extend­ed fam­i­ly of rab­bits with human, and Jew­ish, qual­i­ties. The book’s sub­ti­tle is entire­ly accu­rate. This is not meant to be an orig­i­nal sto­ry; it is cer­tain­ly humor­ous and the author’s inten­tion is not mock­ery but rather an endear­ing homage to a beloved clas­sic. Chil­dren will have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn some Yid­dish, and adults will like­ly kvell over the appear­ance of meno­rahs in the win­dow of that famous­ly calm and reas­sur­ing bed­room where gen­er­a­tions of chil­dren have been lulled to sleep.

Sheryl Haft and Jill Weber echo some of the motifs of Mar­garet Wise Brown and Clement Hurd’s Good­night Moon with­out irony. The orig­i­nal rabbit’s striped sleep­er here is red, with white snowflakes or flow­ers. The por­trait of the three bears is a rab­bit fam­i­ly and the young rabbit’s tran­si­tion­al object has become a toy goril­la. The text, how­ev­er, has changed sig­nif­i­cant­ly, from an almost exis­ten­tial qui­et, to a par­ty so excit­ing that it’s a won­der any child could fall asleep at its con­clu­sion. The rhymes offer an oppor­tu­ni­ty to intro­duce every famil­iar Yid­dish phrase that comes to mind; if read­ers do not expect sub­tle­ty, they will not be dis­ap­point­ed. There is no com­pe­ti­tion between the two lit­tle bub­bies schlep­ping their hub­bies,” and all of the mish­pacha who are hap­pi­ly nosh­ing on latkes.” In addi­tion to the main nar­ra­tive, char­ac­ters add their own con­tri­bu­tions in word bub­bles: Eat, eat, my lit­tle bub­bala” and So good I could plotz” are typ­i­cal exam­ples. (If you were won­der­ing about that toy goril­la, it does rhyme with the whole megillah.”)

What ele­vates this sto­ry above the lev­el of sim­plis­tic satire? While the answer to that ques­tion lies in the eyes of the behold­er, one answer is the occa­sion­al depar­ture from the expect­ed. Good­night menorah/​Goodnight, flute/​And good­night to old Zeyde, asleep in his suit” cap­tures the moment when the par­ty is over and the real­is­ti­cal­ly old grand­fa­ther is ready to call it a day. Weber’s pic­tures are fun­ny, but also ten­der. Zeyde folds him­self into a bright red chair, his grey. striped suit match­ing the sil­ver tab­by cat asleep on his lap. There is a bit of Cha­gall in his dream­ing face and his extend­ed body is in a relaxed pos­ture. Oth­er pages offer alter­na­tive objects to the orig­i­nal book’s bears, chairs, and bowl of mush. Such reli­ably Jew­ish items as one dozen bagels” and a pot of knei­dels” are sim­ple, bright­ly col­ored, and mod­est­ly arranged against a spare back­ground, offer­ing a visu­al respite from the rau­cous par­ty scenes. One love­ly image leaves the realm of par­o­dy to present a small trib­ute to read­ing, includ­ing copies of Pat the Bun­ny, The Tale of Peter Rab­bit, and oth­er lit­er­ary touch­stones of child­hood. Like the bowl of soup pic­tured, Good­night Bub­bala is a good blend of ingre­di­ents for families.

Good­night Bub­bala is rec­om­mend­ed for young chil­dren and their care­givers. It includes a glos­sary of Yid­dish phras­es, an author’s note, and a recipe for latkes, writ­ten by not­ed cook­book author Ina Garten.

Emi­ly Schnei­der writes about lit­er­a­ture, fem­i­nism, and cul­ture for TabletThe For­wardThe Horn Book, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions, and writes about chil­dren’s books on her blog. She has a Ph.D. in Romance Lan­guages and Literatures.

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