Simon is just a boy, but he must leave home. He is immigrating to America to find work and send for his mother and siblings. Simon’s mother tearfully bids him farewell, but not before packing plenty of Hanukkah supplies so he can celebrate properly on his journey: a menorah, candles, latkes, even a dreidel. But as his ship heads toward his new home, it strikes an iceberg and begins to sink! Simon bravely offers his place on the lifeboat to a father, jumping on the iceberg to try to survive. Here, he makes friends with a polar bear who shares his latkes and listens to his Hanukkah tales. His fate seems sealed as the days pass, but Simon has his faith, and is praying for one more Hanukkah miracle.
So, I’m a bit conflicted on this book. Positives: gorgeously enchanting art, a lovely message about having hope in bleak times, a lovely cultural tale; all these elements were lovely. However, the second act of this story is DARK. Simon, a child character, is forced to contemplate his own mortality no less than three times during the course of the story, at one point even speaking the words, “This is where I will die.” That is some heavy stuff for a children’s book, even if there is a happy ending. But still, a beautiful book. This is definitely one of those books you will want to read through first to decide if it’s appropriate for your baby bookworm (the length, which was pushing it even for a book lover like JJ, could also be problematic for the very young). Still, this is a beautiful book at Hanukkah, visually and in tone, and JJ enjoyed it overall. So in the end, it’s still Baby Bookworm approved!