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.
Letter On the Wind: A Chanukah Tale
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.
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