Traditional/Folk Literature

Bookworm: 'Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins' Is the True Story of Hanukkah  - Tablet Magazine
  1. Bibliography: Kimmel, E. A., Hyman, T. S., & Jackson, G. (2019). Hershel and the Hanukkah goblins. Solon, OH: Findaway World, LLC. 97808234076993.
  2. Plot Summary: Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins is the story of a man who stumbles across a small town on the first night of Hanukkah. He is hungry and tired. So, he is excited about eating potato latkes he is sure the town’s people have made. However, when he sets foot in town, he notices there are no menorahs lighting the windowsills. Everything is dismal and gray. The village rabbi tells Hershel that goblins are haunting an old synagogue at the top of a hill and they wreak havoc on their lives, especially during Hanukkah. The only way to break their hold on the town is if someone were to stay at the synagogue for eight nights, lighting the candles each evening. If that isn’t difficult enough, on the last night the king of the goblins would need to light the candles himself. Undaunted, Hershel says he will do it. He travels up the hill to the old synagogue where he uses his smarts to get the best of the goblins and in the end, tricks the goblin king to light the menorah himself! When Hershel returns, the town’s people are overjoyed as the curse has been lifted and they will finally be able to celebrate Hanukkah.

    3. Critical Analysis: Characterization in this story is three-pronged. The first, comes in the form of Hershel—The embodiment of both trickster and hero. He uses his quick wit and cunning as he confronts frightening foes and emerges victorious. The second, is the town. Ever frightened, ever pleading, it represents the “damsel in distress” desperately needing a savior. Although the town cannot help Hershel on his quest, it offers the essential exposition and charges the title character with his task. It is because of Hershel’s encounter with the town’s people and their rabbi that he “crosses the threshold,” so to speak, and fulfills his purpose. The third character is the collective goblin horde, the representation of evil, that hold the town’s people hostage and prevents them from celebrating Hanukkah. The plot of the story, it is simplistic. The hero is charged with a difficult task, which he must complete within a given time frame. Throughout the course of events, he faces three major obstacles, each more harrowing than the one before. But by the end of the story, his cunning prevails, and he brings restitution to the small town. The framework of this story is typical of many western-based folktales. In particular, the obstacles of three resonate as cannon for many such stories. Also, the traditional theme of good vs. evil is ever present. Kimmel draws a line of demarcation between what is “good” in this world and what is “evil.” Even the way characters are drawn exhibits this obvious disparity, with goblins sketched in cartoon fashion (creating a dissociative effect for the reader) and the town’s people drawn realistically, to the point of seeming raw and wearied. The setting too, plays into this motif. The warm Hanukkah lights glow against a brutal winter. However, despite the chaos reigning down in the synagogue, they continue to shine. Another interesting aspect of the setting and the overall style of the story is how seamlessly it fuses a folktale village feel with a Dickensian atmosphere. One would almost expect to see a shackled Jacob Marley roaming the synagogue halls. Cultural markers can be seen throughout the story as well, as the main character is a Jewish folk hero and as the religious observance that has come under attack is Judaic. With its beautiful illustrations and its everyday protagonist equipped with nothing more than his wit and his heart, it is easy to see how this story has remained a favorite of readers for decades.

    4. Awards: 1990 Caldecott Medal Winner

    5. Review Excerpts:
    — From Horn Book Guide Reviews “This original story in the tradition of Yiddish tales about Hershel Ostropolier is welcome as a Hanukkah story and as a trickster tale.”

6. Connections:

–Can be paired with other books by Eric Kimmel such as The Chanukkah Guest or Hanukkah Bear

–Can be used to introduce a chapter on celebrations across cultures

Dust Devil: Isaacs, Anne, Zelinsky, Paul O.: 9780375867224: Amazon.com:  Books
  1. Bibliography: Isaacs, A., & Zelinsky, P. O. (2010). Dust devil. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books. ISBN: 9780375867224
  2. Plot Summary: Dust Devil is a tall tale about a giant-sized woman named Angel. At the beginning of the story, Angel has just moved to Montana from Tennessee because she feels the northern state, with its wide-open spaces, is suitable for a lady of her stature. The book takes the reader along for a fun and humorous ride into Angel’s life. The protagonist’s adventures include relocating mountains, riding a giant dust devil that turns out to be a horse, and pursuing mosquito riding bandits (whom she baits with biscuits) and throws in jail. By the end of the book, Angel has saved the day more than once, become a legend, and made a new friend in the process.
  3. Analysis: Dust Devil is a classic tall tale, not unlike Paul Bunyan. Just swap out the blue ox for a flying horse and a bearded man for a sassy lady, and you’ve got Dust Devil. This tale is similar to epic stories, complete with a heroine and a series of tasks she must perform. The difference here is that the narrative exchanges gravity for humor and serious themes such as loss of innocence for a playful, “devil may care” tone with its larger than life characters. Culture is also important in Dust Devil, but here it comes in the form of local color and its cartoon-like, (yet inoffensive) portrayal of people living in a rural environment. These characters can be appreciated with stylistic phrasing such as “flatter than a flapjack in a frypan” and “pricklier than a porcupine in a cactus patch.” Such choices ground the story in a way that is earthy, charming, and hilarious. Where a story like Beowulf focuses on themes such as honor and nobility, Dust Devil centers on its portrayal of “salt of the earth” types, and how they deal with social conventions. This book is especially intriguing in that it takes regressive social mores such as gender roles and exclusion and sticks a fork in them. It does not do this with passionate rhetoric, but with a simple portrayal of an everyday woman defying expectations with her no-nonsense approach to life and a simple can-do attitude. The plot itself sprints along as Angel moves from one hyperbolic situation to the next, using her punchy personality to resolve each conflict in a way that is immensely entertaining and satisfying. The illustrations are an integral part of any story for young readers, but this is doubly true for Dust Devil. The only thing more over the top than the story’s plot are the images of Angel uprooting mountains and planting them next to her home for shade or of her breaking in a dust storm as it bucks and rears in mid air. For all its comedy, this book also has big heart and an important lesson for readers to never give up and never underestimate themselves.
  4. Awards: New York Times Notable Children’s Book of the Year and Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Winner
  5. Review Excerpts:
    –from Publisher’s Weekly “Zelinsky’s action-packed panoramas capture Angel’s Paul Bunyanlike strength.”
    — from Kirkus Reviews— “Singsongy, colloquial narration guides readers from predicament to outlandish predicament” 
  6. Connections:
    – Can be paired off with other Tall Tales such as The Tall Tale of Paul Bunyan
    – Can be used with a social studies unit on the women’s suffrage.
  1. Bibliography: Gunderson, J., & Bernardini, C. (2016). No lie, pigs (and their houses) CAN fly!: The story of the three little pigs as told by the wolf. North Mankato, MN: Picture Window Books, a Capstone imprint. ISBN 9781479586219
  2. Summary: No lie, Pigs (And Their Houses) Can Fly! Is the story of the three little pigs as told by the big bad wolf. In this book, the wolf reveals that he suffers from a bad case of UBS or uncontrolled breath syndrome. This means that he involuntarily blows objects away with his breath. He shares his story with the reader and how he made a complete turn-around. First, he confesses that the other wolves in his pack bullied him. He also tells the reader that because of this treatment, he decided to run off into the forest. Once there, he found a house made of straw and a pig carefully stirring a boiling pot. Hoping to make a kind friend, he called out to the pig, but he accidentally blew the pig’s house down. Frightened by the sight of the wolf, the pig fell into the pot and when the wolf looked inside to apologize, he only found a boiled ham, which of course he ate. As the wolf continued to venture inside the forest, he found a house made of sticks. Inside, he saw another pig who was grilling on a frying pan. As before, the wolf tried to get the pig’s attention and blew his house down too! True to form, the frightened animal accidentally fell into the pan and when the wolf tried to apologize, he didn’t find him. All he saw, were some crispy bacon strips, which he gobbled up instantly. When he finally reached the third house, he was feeling quite famished again. Hoping to share some of the dinner the pig was making, he asked if he could come inside. When the pig said no, he decided to press his luck by going in through the chimney. However, just like the classic fable, the wolf was burned by the flames of the boiling pot on the chimney. But after a heart to heart with the pig (who realized the wolf was actually quite nice), he decided to use his UBS for good such as helping kids blow out birthday candles and keeping kites in the air. In the end, the wolf learned to accept himself and made a new friend.
  3. Analysis: This version of the “Three Little Pigs” uses a fractured tale approach. First, it takes the archetypal idea of evil — the big bad wolf– and turns it on its head, by having the wolf confess that he has a diagnosable condition, with a bonified acronym no less. So, rather than blame the wolf for destroying homes and terrorizing would-be dinner items, the reader feels sympathy for the beast. Even when he eats the first two pigs, he does this innocently, not realizing that when the pigs fell into their boiling pot and frying pan, they effectively turned themselves into ham and bacon. The wolf is also championed as an underdog when he reveals that he (much like a beloved reindeer) was bullied by his peers for being different. The interesting effect of the reimagining of this character is that it allows the reader to evaluate the wolf based on modern sensibilities and a more progressive understanding of the world. Of course, this is done in a tongue-in-cheek manner which makes the read feel light and whippy. Nonetheless, the theme of seeing a situation from all perspectives resonates throughout the book. The illustrations also have a modern aesthetic, one that is reminiscent of newer cartoons that employ computer graphics. Words like “YUMMO!” and “WHOOP!” Pop out on the book pages like text messages on a phone screen. This style also serves to tie into the book’s progressive message. The setting, at least in terms of the narrative, falls in line with many fairy tales. It is vague and non-descript, with general references to the forest or houses. From a cultural standpoint, this book ties into the collective culture of being human, not just in the archetypal sense of “good” and “evil,” although that is definitely present, but in the sense that all beings suffer, whether big or small, fierce or not. We all experience the struggles that come with the human condition and are all worthy of understanding and love.

4. Awards: None Applicable

5. Review Excerpt: — From Horn Book Guide “Another series of fractured fairy tales, this time intended for Common Core curriculum purposes” 

6. Connections:

-Can be paired with other fractured tale books such as Cinderella outgrows the glass slipper and other zany fractured fairy tale plays.

-Can be paired with the original Three Little Pigs and children can make comparisons.

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