A mix of titles currently on my shelves.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Speaking of Hanukkah in Alaska...

Okay, so Hanukkah is over. But I can’t resist mentioning a second, earlier picture book about celebrating Hanukkah in Alaska, Diana Conway’s Northern Lights: A Hanukkah Story. Conway, who lives across Kachemak Bay from me in Halibut Cove, published the story in 1994 with Kar-Ben Publishing, a publisher specializing in Jewish children’s books.

This tale begins in a Yup’ik village on the Bering Sea, where Sara and her physician father have just flown in to see his patients. Grounded by the weather, they spend Hanukkah with a Yup’ik family, exchanging food, stories, and traditions. Sara entertains her hosts with a retelling of the Hanukkah story. Together they improvise a Hanukkah celebration with an “Eskimo menorah,” capped off by a stunning display of northern lights.

A few Yup’ik words are used in the text. These are explained in context and given a pronunciation guide in a front note.

The book is illustrated by Shelly Haas. No notes on the artwork are provided but to my untrained eye the medium appears to be watercolor with some pen and ink lines. Outdoor hues of blues, purples, and pinks, often spattered with white and blue crystals of blowing snow, capture the essence of the winter landscape in a northern village.

Indoor scenes focus on the faces and body language of the characters, with a wider range of color in clothing and home furnishings. The northern lights, described as “quivering bands of color,” are ethereal, evoking in their fluid swirls the movement and changing colors of the aurora borealis.

Unfortunately, the book is now out of print. Thank goodness for libraries! It’s available at many of them throughout Alaska, as well as the Lower 48. If it’s not at your local library and you'd like to read the book, ask about interlibrary loan.

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