The Golem’s Latkes Adapted by Eric A. Kimmel, Illustrated by Aaron Jasinski

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Bibliography

Kimmel, Eric A. The Golem’s Latkes. Ill. by Aaron Jasinski. New York: Marshall Cavendish Children, 2011. ISBN 9780761459040

Plot Summary

Rabbi Judah leaves to visit the emperor on the first night of Hanukkah and tells his maid to have the golem help her make latkes while he is gone. He only gives her one warning: not to leave the golem because he does not know when to stop. After seeing how efficient the golem is at making latkes, the maid leaves to visit her friend, planning to return quickly. Time gets away from her and when she returns, the latkes have spilled out of the house and taken over the entire city. The rabbi comes home to find this mess and is not sure how to fix his problem. His maid suggests inviting everyone to a Hanukkah party to help eat the latkes. The rabbi does just this and every last latke gets eaten. The rabbi then questions whether he should fire his maid for not listening to him, but she reminds him that another holiday is coming up and he will surely need her help, along with the golem’s, to prepare the feast for Purim!

Critical Analysis

Kimmel’s rendition of the golem story combined with a bit of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice flair features a dutiful Rabbi, a gossiping maid, and a title character who works tirelessly until told to stop, all in a nondescript house and neighborhood in Prague. Jasinski’s beautiful facial expressions rendered in acrylic on wood panels and Kimmel’s bold word choice as well as his refrain of “Peel. Chop. Mix. Fry. Peel. Chop. Mix. Fry.” draw the reader into the traditional Jewish tale and help to educate children on the culture. Each decision made by the characters creates a larger sense of dread for the reader until finally, it appears all is lost when the latkes take over the city and block the streets, but the maid comes through with a clever solution and the problem find its satisfying solution. Through his story, Kimmel reminds readers that they should do as they are told and also that problems can be solved when everyone works together. The author has also included a note at the beginning of the book explaining the original legend of the golem and defining a few Jewish terms, providing a real insight into the Jewish customs featured in the book. Overall, Kimmel manages to create a nice read-aloud story through the rythym of his words and the vivid illustrations by Jasinski, such as the golden mountain of latkes, enhance the story.

I very much enjoyed the author’s note at the beginning of the book. It gives a solid, concise background for the story and truly educates the reader on a bit of Jewish history. The illustrations in this book were also enjoyable, with the facial expressions being the standout.

Review Excerpts

National Jewish Book Awards

( WON AWARD in 2011 )

“Kimmel has the pacing of a comic, and the illustrations by Jasinski (The Heart’s Language) are richly detailed. A selection of the PJ Library.” — Publisher’s Weekly, September 2011

“Not as scary as traditional golem monster stories, this lively picture book blends the Jewish legend with the story of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice… The mayhem is great messy fun for storytelling, with bright acrylic double-page spreads that show the huge giant with his latkes filling the kitchen, tumbling into the street, and then forming a golden brown mountain above the city” — Booklist, November 2011

“However, one must wonder how batches and batches of latkes are made from a single basket of potatoes. This conundrum is exacerbated by the general flatness of the narrative, in spite of a text perked up by the refrain “Peel. Chop. Mix. Fry. Peel. Chop. Mix. Fry.” Richly hued acrylic-on-wood illustrations nicely depict golden latkes piled high, but are marred by the portrayal of the golem as a large gray Gumby-like figure with the letters EMET (Hebrew for “truth”) etched on its forehead. By focusing solely on the golem as automaton, young readers unfamiliar with this character’s rich and complex history in Jewish mysticism and literature are being shortchanged.” –Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library (in School Library Journal, October 2011)

Connections

Read retellings of the original Golem story:

  • Golem by David Wisniewski  ISBN 9780395726181
  • The Golem: A Version by Barbara Rogasky  ISBN 9780823409648

Read The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Sally Grindley and Illustrated by Thomas Taylor ISBN    9780803727267 and compare and contrast.

Read Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat: A Chanukah Story by Naomi Howland ISBN 9780395899038 and compare and contrast.

Bring in a local rabbi, staff member who is Jewish, or possibly a parent to speak about Hanukkah.

Make latkes in class.

Have students make their own scale versions of the Golem.

Image from Amazon.com, accessed February 8, 2015. Artwork by Aaron Jasinski

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