The Para­keet Named Dreidel

Isaac Bashe­vis Singer; Suzanne Raphael Berk­son, illus.

  • Review
By – July 14, 2016

Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished as one of eight Hanukkah sto­ries in Singer’s The Pow­er of Light in 1980, The Para­keet Named Drei­del” has been seam­less­ly trans­formed into a win­some pic­ture book, expand­ing the age range so now more read­ers will be able to enjoy the mas­ter storyteller’s work.

All the can­dles are lit in the meno­rah on the win­dowsill in win­try Brook­lyn, New York when David and his father res­cue a para­keet which appears on the oth­er side of the glass. The bird brings instant laugh­ter and joy this last night of Hanukkah, chat­ter­ing Zeldele go to sleep” in Yid­dish and even push­ing a drei­del around with its beak. With trep­i­da­tion, David waits as his father posts signs in neigh­bor­ing ele­va­tors, reach­ing out to some­one who may have lost their pet. When, to everyone’s relief, no one claims the bird, Drei­del becomes part of their fam­i­ly for many years. And then, one win­ter night in col­lege, David serendip­i­tous­ly meets Zel­da, the bird’s orig­i­nal own­er. The sto­ry ends happily.

Clever page breaks high­light the humor in the father’s nar­ra­tion, where not one word of Singer’s text has been cut. Expres­sive car­toon line draw­ings, filled with col­or and warmth, dance through the pages with Drei­del. Berk­son fills in the unspo­ken, as when she brings action into nine word­less frames to pic­ture how We became more attached to him from day to day.” Adults who have lov­ing­ly shared the un-illus­trat­ed tale with chil­dren in the past will cel­e­brate how the affec­tion­ate play­ful­ness and bright pages extend the reach to younger lis­ten­ers now, too.

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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