Let­ter On the Wind: A Chanukah Tale

Sarah Mar­wil Lam­stein; Neil Wald­man, illus.
  • Review
By – December 16, 2011
Waldman’s haunt­ing cov­er, where a plum-shad­ed moon shines and dark birds fly in a dusky land­scape, sets the mood for Lamstein’s lyri­cal Chanukah folk­tale. In an unnamed vil­lage in the Mid­dle East, there is no oil for the meno­rahs because drought has with­ered olives on the trees. A poor man, Hay­im, dic­tates a let­ter to the Almighty request­ing enough oil for the entire vil­lage. Every­one scoffs, but Hay­im takes the scroll to the high­est hill. The wind car­ries it off, and a gen­tle adven­ture begins. The let­ter comes to rest on a merchant’s bal­cony, and the mer­chant decides that the Almighty has cho­sen him to do this deed. How­ev­er, when sup­plies and a bejew­eled sil­ver meno­rah anony­mous­ly reach Hay­im, the vil­lagers sus­pect that he might be a thief. On the last night of Chanukah, the mer­chant decides he must do some­thing about this him­self. No notes give the ori­gins of this folk­tale, which Lam­stein relates in poet­ic phras­ings that beg to be read aloud. Inside, Wald­man fills two-page spreads with bold water­col­or and ink, where soar­ing scenic bor­ders dynam­i­cal­ly con­tin­ue boxed scenes with peo­ple. Togeth­er, art and text tell a dra­mat­i­cal­ly sim­ple sto­ry of friend­ship and faith in a beau­ti­ful hol­i­day pic­ture book for ages 5 – 8.

Sharon Elswit, author of The Jew­ish Sto­ry Find­er, now resides in San Fran­cis­co, where she has been help­ing stu­dents vis­it­ing 826 Valen­cia loca­tions around the city to write sto­ries and poems and get­ting adults up and retelling Jew­ish folk­tales to share with their own spin. 

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