Read all of the posts in our Eight Nights of Sto­ries series here.

The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Scream­ing: A Christ­mas Sto­ry by Lemo­ny Snick­et; Lisa Brown, illus.
On a year when Chanukah and Christ­mas fall nowhere near each oth­er on the cal­en­dar — hard­ly in the same sea­son, real­ly — the chal­lenge of find­ing con­tem­po­rary Chanukah sto­ries that don’t in some way con­front the Jew­ish expe­ri­ence of Amer­i­can Yule­tide becomes much more strong­ly defined. Sud­den­ly, it does­n’t make sense to talk about Christ­mas, how­ev­er pre­oc­cu­pied we are about it any oth­er year. So why, when we’ve avoid­ed all oth­er tales of hol­i­day encoun­ters, are we fea­tur­ing A Christ­mas Sto­ry”? Two rea­sons, main­ly: 1) It isn’t just a Christ­mas sto­ry, or just a Chanukah one, either, and 2) it’s writ­ten by Lemo­ny Snick­et, and it is a real­ly, real­ly great book.

If you aren’t read­ing Lemo­ny Snick­et with your kids already, you should be. Snick­et con­sis­tent­ly deliv­ers impos­si­bly well-writ­ten, enjoy­able lit­er­a­ture for chil­dren and teens, and The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Scream­ing unde­ni­ably bears his sig­na­ture. Snick­et oper­ates on curios­i­ty, which part­ly accounts for writ­ing this short Christ­mas Sto­ry” about a latke — a scream­ing latke, at that. In his usu­al bril­liance, Snick­et suc­cinct­ly explains the his­to­ry and cus­toms of Chanukah with the same flour­ish he admin­is­ters to unusu­al vocab­u­lary or phras­ing, and no one can wield words like arrondisse­ment” or unabat­ed” in children’s lit­er­a­ture quite like him. As our pota­to pan­cake pro­tag­o­nist attempts to make him­self under­stood to an assort­ment of Christ­mas orna­ments, it becomes increas­ing­ly evi­dent that the book’s mes­sage is not only about the Jew­ish expe­ri­ence of Yule­tide cul­ture but, more impor­tant­ly, about the uni­ver­sal child­hood frus­tra­tion of being misunderstood.

Snick­et writes smart books. Peri­od. He trusts in young read­ers’ appre­ci­a­tion for sophis­ti­cat­ed humor and elo­quence, and edu­cates with dis­cern­ing alter­na­tion between sub­tle­ty and brazen­ness. Kids love his sto­ries and imbibe his insis­tence on impec­ca­ble dic­tion and gram­mar with­out even real­iz­ing it: I have sev­er­al friends who only com­pre­hend­ed how much they’d learned from read­ing Snick­et in their youth when they sat down to their first prac­tice SATs. Abound with winks to the adult audi­ence, The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Scream­ing promis­es amuse­ment for read­ers of any age — but why stop there? Advanced read­ers will love A Series of Unfor­tu­nate Events and Snicket’s newest oncom­ing series, All the Wrong Ques­tions; he has also pub­lished a col­lec­tion of imag­i­na­tive books for younger read­ers—13 Words with illus­tra­tions by Maira Kalman is a per­son­al favorite.

Find­ing Lemo­ny Snick­et too child­ish for young adults? Try his qui­eter col­lab­o­ra­tion with Maira Kalman: Why We Broke Up, pub­lished under the author’s real name, Daniel Han­dler. Writ­ten as a beau­ti­ful­ly illus­trat­ed let­ter end­ing a teenage rela­tion­ship, Why We Broke Up focus­es on the every­day objects that acquire the bit­ter­sweet sig­nif­i­cance of fraught young love. The unflinch­ing writ­ing is more rel­e­vant to your teen’s life than you might real­ize — and if it isn’t yet, it will be.

After the kids are asleep…

But in keep­ing with tonight’s theme of humor­ous Christ­mas-Chanukah dia­logue, give your­self a gig­gle with Jonathan Safran Foer’s A Beginner’s Guide to Hanukkah” Op-Ed for The New York Times.