The Latke Who Could­n’t Stop Scream­ing: A Christ­mas Story

Lemo­ny Snick­et; Lisa Brown, illus.
  • Review
By – March 14, 2012

Lemo­ny Snick­et sure­ly must have been one of those chil­dren who saw the sto­ry of the Gin­ger­bread Man in a dif­fer­ent light. The fate of a talk­ing cook­ie eat­en by a fox and suf­fer­ing hor­ri­ble agony offers a myr­i­ad of macabre sce­nar­ios to a cer­tain type of kid. Now he brings his par­tic­u­lar brand of wry adult humor to the sto­ry of Hanukah by intro­duc­ing us to an unfor­tu­nate latke with a doomed des­tiny. The very amus­ing sto­ry takes place at the time of year dur­ing which chil­dren pressed their faces to the win­dows look­ing for a glimpse of a man who they sus­pect­ed of bring­ing them won­der­ful gifts.” The chil­dren of the vil­lage hear a ter­ri­ble noise. The droll nar­ra­tion explains that this is the noise of a new­ly born latke slapped into a pan full of olive oil and heat­ed to a very high tem­per­a­ture.” As the pota­to pan­cake runs scream­ing through the vil­lage, he pass­es var­i­ous sec­u­lar items that relate to an unnamed win­ter hol­i­day, such as flash­ing col­ored lights, a can­dy cane, and a pine tree. Each suc­ces­sive encounter pro­vides the latke with the oppor­tu­ni­ty for a hur­ried expla­na­tion of his life’s pur­pose. My mouth­wa­ter­ing smell is part of the cozy feel­ing of Hanukah…It reminds us that things are bet­ter now then they were in 175 BCE, when my peo­ple were not allowed to prac­tice their reli­gion.” Unfor­tu­nate­ly for the latke, the sym­bols prove to be a bit daft, and fail to grasp that the poor guy has noth­ing to do with Christ­mas. This infu­ri­ates the mis­un­der­stood latke, who con­tin­ues scream­ing, although by now he has trav­eled far from the boil­ing oil. Even­tu­al­ly a cheer­ful (Jew­ish) fam­i­ly enters the pine for­est where the exhaust­ed latke is try­ing to explain to a tree why the con­cept of presents for Hanukah is not such a big deal. They scoop up the latke and bring him home. The last page is worth print­ing in its entire­ty for the author’s dry take on the mod­ern Hanukah/​Christmas Dilemma: 

It is very frus­trat­ing not to be under­stood in this world. If you say one thing and keep being told that you mean some­thing else, it can make you want to scream. But some­where in the world there is a place for all of us, whether you are an elec­tric form of dec­o­ra­tion, pep­per­mint-scent­ed sweet, a source of tim­ber, or a pota­to pan­cake. On a cold, snowy night, every­one and every­thing should be wel­comed some­where, and the latke was wel­comed into a home full of peo­ple who under­stood what a latke is, and how it fits into its par­tic­u­lar holiday. 

And then they ate it. AAAHHHH!! 

Ages 6 – adult.

Lisa Sil­ver­man is direc­tor of Sinai Tem­ple’s Blu­men­thal Library in Los Ange­les and a for­mer day school librar­i­an. She is the for­mer chil­dren’s book review edi­tor of Jew­ish Book World.

Discussion Questions