At the first library where I worked, we had a Hanukkah party for the public. The staff served crisp potato pancakes called latkes, we played dreidel with peanuts, and we told stories. Mine was “Grandmother’s Tale” by Isaac Bashevis Singer, which I learned by heart. It was short and deliciously scary. As I read the story again last night the words I’d memorized so long ago came flooding back into my mind: “He ate pancakes with cinnamon, drank tea with jam, and puffed smoke rings from his amber pipe.” Imagine this mysterious and rich young guest transforming into a devil right before your eyes!
My favorite, though, is the title story from the same book, Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories. Aaron has to take his family’s old goat to the butcher. His father needs the money to purchase oil for the Hanukkah lamp, food for the holiday, and gifts for the children. On their journey to town a terrible blizzard blows in, and Aaron and Zlateh lose their way in the storm. A haystack provides them with warmth, the hay is food for the goat, and her milk sustains Aaron. The quiet and tender story of their survival expresses the miracle of love at a time of miracles.
Winter evenings are perfect for reading aloud as a family. Singer’s stories capture the imagination with mystery, magic, humor, and love. -Miss Wendy