Tuesday, December 12, 2006


The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes
Written by Linda Glaser
Illustrated by Nancy Cote
Published by Albert Whitman (1997)

THE BORROWED HANUKKAH LATKES became a favorite December read-aloud in my classroom the last few years I taught and in the library for the three years I served as our school’s librarian.

This picture book isn’t just about Hanukkah—it’s a story about family and tradition and about thinking of others who may be alone at a special time of the year. The story takes place on the last night of Hanukkah. A young girl named Rachel is the main character. As the story begins, Rachel’s mother is busy in the kitchen frying up batches of potato latkes for her family who will gather at their house to celebrate the holiday. As Rachel’s mother is preparing the meal, she receives a call from Miriam asking her if she can bring along Aunt Tilly and her seven grandchildren. Mama tells Miriam: “Of course. I’ll have plenty of latkes. Don’t worry.”

But that means there will now be seventeen people eating dinner in their tiny house—and it means Mama will have to cook a lot more latkes. Mama sends Rachel to the cellar to fetch a sack of potatoes. Alas, there are only three potatoes left—and they look pretty sick. It’s too late to go to the store. What can Mama do? She thinks about sending Rachel over to ask Mrs. Greenberg, their next-door neighbor, if they can borrow some potatoes. In the past, Rachel’s family had always invited Mrs. Greenberg, who lives alone, to join them for this Hanukkah meal. But Mrs. Greenberg, who has a “heart of gold” and is “stubborn as an ox,” always declines the invitation because she “thinks she’d be a bother.” But the generous Mrs. Greenberg had always offered: “If you need anything, just let me know.” Rachel suggests to her mother that maybe Mrs. Greenberg will join them for dinner if they borrow some of her potatoes.

Mrs. Greenberg gives Rachel a sack of potatoes, but refuses to accept the dinner invitation. She tells Rachel that her mother has enough work without adding one more person to the list of guests.

Soon after Rachel returns home with the potatoes, Mama realizes she has no more eggs. Rachel returns to Mrs. Greenberg’s house to borrow some eggs—and to encourage the elderly woman, once again, to join them for dinner. Mrs. Greenberg hands Rachel a carton of eggs and remarks that she feels more comfortable in her own house.

Soon enough, Rachel’s home is filled to bursting with people—all hugging and kissing and laughing. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough chairs for everyone to sit on at dinnertime. So Rachel runs to Mrs. Greenberg’s to ask if she can borrow chairs. While still at her neighbor’s, she has an idea. Rachel says to her friend, “We need room for all these chairs.” Then she says, “You have lots of room.” Mrs. Greenberg thinks awhile, gets the not-so-subtle hint and says, “You mean your guests should come and sit in my house?” Rachel replies, "That would be nice."

Mrs. Greenberg is quiet for some time. “So long that the walls got tired of waiting. And the rug couldn’t hold its breath anymore.” At last, she tells Rachel she’d love to have company for Hanukkah. So Rachel, her mother and father, and the rest of her family bring platters of potato latkes next door to share with Mrs. Greenberg in a happy holiday celebration.

This is a warm-hearted and uplifting story about a bright, determined young girl—just as stubborn and as kind as her white-haired neighbor—who uses her head to convince an elderly friend not to spend another Hanukkah alone.


Greg Pincus said...

We had in our collection a Hanukkah "soft" book with removable pieces and the like. Which was all fine and dandy until the page where Grandma was holding out a plate of latkes that you could remove. Ahhh, but when you took the plate off, you were left with Grandma with a HANDLESS ARM! Ooops.

That little book freaked out more kids and caused more laughter among adults than it had any right to, I'll say that. Your choice is better!

Elaine Magliaro said...


Two other Hanukkah favorites of mine are THE MAGIC DREIDELS by Eric Kimmel and HERSHEL AND THE HANUKKAH GOBLINS--also by Kimmel. My kids loved Hershel! They read it all year. I had to purchase three additional copies when I became librarian because kids were always requesting it.

Your Hanukkah book sounds like it could be a hit at Halloween.