In the world of Jewish children’s literature, local award winning artist Jill Weber has once again hit a gimel as the illustrator of “Goodnight Bubbala: A Joyful Parody” by Sheryl Haft.
The delightful new book that puts a Yiddish spin on “Goodnight Moon,” the beloved classic by Margaret Wise Brown, is sure to be a winner for this year’s Hanukkah season and all year long.
Set during Hanukkah, “Goodnight Bubbala” (Penguin Random House) is among a handful of new Jewish children’s books for kids of all ages including “Kugel for Hanukkah?” written by Rhode Island author, Gretchen Everine.
In Haft’s and Weber’s reimagined version, the quiet serenity of the original, where a baby bunny is lulled to sleep in a hushed room, turns upside down with the arrival of a mishpacha full of bunny bubbes, zaydes and cousins.
Bubbala’s bedtime turns into a lively Hanukkah celebration with dancing, music making, dreidels, a pot of kneidels and, of course, latkes. A menorah glows in bubbala’s window. Playful kitties add to the merriment.
Yiddish words and expressions – plotz, tchotchkes and verklempt – are woven into the simple verse. Weber’s lively illustrations sparkle with vibrant color and offer nods to the original art by Clement Hurd.
The book includes a glossary of Yiddish words and a recipe for “Easy Latkes,” by master Jewish chef Ina Garten.
When the mishpacha files out into the starry winter night, Bubbala, cozy in bed, goes to sleep.
Hart was inspired by her passion for the Yiddish she heard as a child from her grandparents. “I just loved the sound. It always made me laugh,” Haft said in a recent phone conversation.
The author of “Baby Boo, I Love You,” and the upcoming “Amazing Mazie McGear, Kid Engineer,” Haft wanted to share that sparkle in a book that reached a broad audience of young kids.
She wondered what “Goodnight Moon” would be like if it reflected her own family whose gatherings with grandparents and other relatives were lively. “No one is ever quiet,” and there was always plenty to eat. She envisioned a mashup of “Goodnight Moon,” meets “Fiddler” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”
The boisterous Yiddish-speaking family of Haft’s manuscript struck a chord for Weber, who was reminded of her childhood visits with her Yiddish-speaking grandparents in New Bedford.
“When we were there, from the first thing in the morning, in came the great aunts and the food. It was this trail of people,” said Weber, an award-winning illustrator of many books for kids including “The Story of Hanukkah,” by David A. Adler, and other Jewish titles.
Haft and Weber, who lives on a farm in southern New Hampshire, are both excited that the book is appealing to diverse audiences, from families with young kids to Jewish grandparents and to non-Jewish families who are tickled with the fun sounds of Yiddish. The book’s themes of gratitude, cherishing family and elders are universal, Haft said.
Striking a serious note, Weber said she is honored to be part of a book that presents Jewish culture to a broad swath of Americans, especially in today’s divisive climate.
“It’s important to take this culture … and be proud and to encourage other immigrants to do the same,” she reflected.
Other engaging reads glow with Hanukkah’s warmth
Kugel for Hanukkah?
By Gretchen M. Everin
Illustrated by Rebecca Ashdown
Kar-Ben (ages 4-9)
Each night, when a young girl celebrates Hanukkah with her family, they light the menorah and eat latkes. The young girl, who tells the story in her own voice, dreams of getting a pet. Her grandmother’s gifts add up to the makings of a sweet kugel, the girl’s favorite treat. But she wonders about her gifts of an empty bowl, a water bottle and a fuzzy sweater from City Animal Shelter. On the last night, a knock on the door delivers a welcome surprise, a pet who she names Kugel. Rebecca Ashdown’s vivid and expressive cartoon like illustrations bring the family’s Hanukkah celebrations to life.
Grover’s Hanukkah Party
Joni Kibort Sussman
Illustrated by Tom Leigh
Kar-Ben (ages 1-4)
A board book for toddlers with Sesame Street’s beloved Grover is all about the number eight, for the eight nights of Hanukkah.
The Hanukkah Fable of Little Dreidel and Silver Menorah
By Sylvia Rouss
Illustrated by T.L. Derby
MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing (ages 3-7)
A plain brown wooden dreidel envies a family’s shiny Hanukkah menorah in this warm tale. Each night, with a touch of a magical rhyme, the dreidel spins and turns a different color but still goes unnoticed. On the last night, the kids discover their father’s handmade dreidel that spins better than all the colorful ones.
A Dreidel in Time: A New Spin on an Old Tale
By Marcia Berneger
Illustrated by Beatriz Castro
Kar-Ben (ages 8-13)
A magical family dreidel takes a brother and sister back in time to ancient Israel, where they find themselves in the middle of the Hanukkah story. In this adventure chapter book, the kids find courage to help the Maccabees win the fight for religious freedom.