Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale written by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Matthew Trueman (2014)
Simon set off on to America leaving his family behind. His mother packed a knapsack with food and something a little extra, because Hanukkah was coming. Simon left promising to work hard and send tickets for all of them to join him in America as soon as he could. On his journey, the ship Simon was on, hit a giant iceberg and began to sink. Simon helped the sailors load the lifeboats and jumped into the last boat himself. Suddenly another man appears crying for help, but there wasn’t any more room on the lifeboat, so the man threw Simon a heavy pocket watch to give to his son in New York when he lands. Simon knew what it’s like to grow up without a father, so he traded places with the man and the last lifeboat rowed away. Just before the ship sank, Simon jumped onto the iceberg thinking only a miracle could save him. Remembering what his mother told him, Simon opened his knapsack and lit the first candle on the menorah, said the blessing, and played with his dreidel until he spun ‘Nun’ which stands for the word ‘Nes – Miracle’. Then Simon heard a splash in the water and was face to face with a polar bear. Simon fed the bear the latkes, black bread, and herring that his mother had packed for him. Simon ate the hard boiled eggs and soon the bear fell asleep with Simon snuggled up next to her. The next morning the bear was gone and Simon wondered if he would ever see her again. Soon, the bear returned with a fish in her mouth. She skinned it with her teeth and bit it in half. Simon cut his piece with a pocketknife and ate it. That night when he lit the second Hanukkah candle, Simon’s belly was full and he slept with the polar bear again. This continued until the last night of Hanukkah. Simon counted his miracles, but he was out of food and out of candles, he needed one more miracle or he would die of cold and hunger. Just then the polar bear jumped back into the water leaving Simon alone and cold on the iceberg. Immediately, he heard voices. Another ship had seen the lights of his menorah and had sent a boat to pick him up. Simon had his eighth miracle, he was rescued and taken to New York. His story was in all the papers. And, the mayor of the city was none other than the man Simon had traded places with on the lifeboat. The mayor was so thankful, he sent tickets to Simon’s family so they could all be together again and he gave Simon the perfect job, Polar Bear Keeper at the Central Park Zoo!
Eric Kimmel, author of my favorite Hanukkah story, The Chanukkah Guest later published as Hanukkah Bear, and many other books gives the old-world flavor to his modern picture books. This is an example of his unique and authentic storytelling which will delight readers everywhere.
Matthew Trueman lit the pages of this book with the warmth and peace of the menorah and the beautiful details of the story.
I am in awe of another masterpiece. The text and the art blend superbly together to create this story of hope, prayer, and miracles, in a fun and fanciful way.