Simon and the Bear
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Simon and the Bear, by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Matthew Trueman, is a fantasy adventure about a young immigrant boy whose ship to America sinks after it hits and iceberg. Simon is left stranded on the iceberg, but a polar bear comes, shares his latkes and keeps him safe and warm. The ordeal happens during Hanukkah, so Simon lights the candles each night and prays for a miracle -- and gets eight, including being rescued, plus a bonus miracle when he finally lands in New York. It's an engaging story that keeps the focus on faith and tradition amid wild coincidences and fantastic devices. An Author's Note recounts the biblical story of Hanukkah and its rituals still practiced today.
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What's the Story?
Simon sets sail from the old country for America with a knapsack his mother has packed with food, a menorah, a box of candles, matches, a dreidel, "and plenty of latkes." "Wherever you are, Simon," she tells him, "don't forget to celebrate Hanukkah and its miracles. Who knows? You may need a miracle on your long journey. When his ship hits an iceberg, Simon offers his place in the lifeboat to a man in a fur coat who's traveling to join his son in New York. Simon jumps off the sinking ship onto the iceberg on the first night of Hanukkah, so he lights the menorah and prays for a miracle. Soon a friendly polar bear appears, catches fish for him, and keeps him safe and warm. When a ship spots his candle on the last night of Hanukkah, he's rescued and reaches New York, where he reunites with the man in the fur coat. The man happens to be the mayor of New York, who pays to have Simon's family come to America with first class tickets, and gives Simon a job as polar bear keeper of the Central Park Zoo.
Is It Any Good?
SIMON AND THE BEAR, beautifully illustrated by Matthew Truman with collage and acrylics in wintry blue shades, is an engaging survival story that keeps the emphasis on praying for a miracle. "A miracle may happen for me," says Simon, "just as one happened for the Maccabees long ago." Simon counts seven miracles before his rescue becomes the eighth -- echoing the eight nights of Hanukkah.
The protagonist is so sweet and appealing, readers will just go with his great reversal of fortune once he lands in New York. Why not have the plot resolution be miraculous?
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Hanukkah. What do you know about the biblical story and why the holiday is it's celebrated for eight nights?
How does the author convey the cold of being on an iceberg? What colors does he use?
Did anyone in your family come to America as an immigrant? What was their journey like?
- Author: Eric A. Kimmel
- Illustrator: Matthew Trueman
- Genre: Holiday
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
- Publication date: September 2, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 3 - 5
- Number of pages: 40
- Available on: Hardback
- Last updated: July 12, 2017
Our Editors Recommend
Latkes and Applesauce: A Hanukkah Story
Folksy tale shares the miracle of simple things.
KidCalc Hanukkah Math Fun
Math games are OK, but app is light on Hanukkah theme.
Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama
Two-tradition family doubles the holiday fun.
For kids who love Holidays and picture books
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