Dec 5, 2011

The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming

The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: a Christmas Story by Lemony Snicket
Illustrated by Lisa Brown 
Publisher: McSweeney's Books

     In a tiny village a terrible noise is heard coming from the one of the houses.  The house was "already regarded with some suspicion, as it was the only place not decorated with flashing colored lights at this time of the year."  The noise is a loud scream, and the one screaming is a latke -a potato pancake.  The latkes are a traditional part of the celebration of Hanukah.  This night, a latke was thrown into a pan full of hot olive oil, and as soon as it felt the heat, it jumped back out and ran away screaming.  On her way out of town, the latke runs past colored lights who are annoyed at her for making so much noise and stealing the spotlight from them. "We're the ones who are supposed to be dominating the neighborhood with our cheerful glow!"  As the latke explains to the lights the origins of Hanukah, they seem to completely miss the point: "so you're basically hash browns." The Christmas lights try to fit the latke into their holiday framework, while the potato pancake tries to explain that she's something completely different.  She has the same problem when she runs into a candy cane and a pine tree.  Thankfully, a family who celebrates Hanukah finds the latke in the forest and brings her back to their home. Where, unfortunately, she screams again as she's being eaten.
     The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming is one of the most original and thought provoking holiday books I've ever read.  It's quirky but full of message.  Snicket uses some advanced vocabulary, followed by their definitions (a reminder of his work in A Series of Unfortunate Events...which I guess it's exactly while this was for the poor latke....)  The story manages to entertain while teaching the story of Hanukah.  The book opens up a door to a discussion in the upper elementary classrooms about diversity and different religions; about respect, restraint and community.  There are a couple of nuances that only adults might catch.  Overall, a fantastic find to bring to my students and everybody else this time of year.  

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