Monday, November 23, 2015

Farmer Kobi's Hanukkah Match

Farmer Kobi's Hanukkah Match
by Karen Rostoker-Gruber & Rabbi Ron Issacs; illus. by CB Decker
32 pages; ages 4-7
Apples & Honey Press, 2015

With less than two weeks to Hanukkah, it's time to polish the menorah, lay in a supply of candles, find that yummy sweet potato latke recipe you used last year, rescue the dreidel from the goat ... and squeeze in some time to read a new story.

I love the way this one begins: Donkey's legs shook so hard he could barely stand. Tonight, on the second night of Hanukkah, Farmer Kobi had invited Polly to his farm for a date.

Farmer Kobi's farm is part of a moshav, a cooperative farming community in Israel. On this, the second day of Hanukkah, he is a bit late finishing up his chores and the animals are worried because Polly could show up any minute. Things are under control, though, because the sheep have checked on the baa-baa-ghanoush and it's ready.

Things seem to go well until Farmer Kobi heads to the kitchen, leaving Polly in the sitting room with his animals. She thinks they should be outside, not hanging around the dining room table. Things come to a head when Polly storms out, snapping that if she wanted to be with animals she'd go to the zoo.

She was definitely not the perfect match, the animals decide. Before they can feel too sorry for Farmer Kobi there's a knock on the door... Has Polly returned? Will Farmer Kobi meet his match? Will they get to eat the falafel balls and latkes before all the food gets cold?

Karen Rostoker-Gruber is pretty busy getting ready for the holidays at her home, but was gracious enough to answer Three Questions when I dropped in via email.

Sally: Why did you want to write this book?

Karen: I had written a story earlier called "Farmer Ted's Dinner Date" to follow my first book, Rooster Can't Cock-a-Doodle-Doo. For a number of reasons, it ended up on the back burner until I talked with my Rabbi, Ron Isaacs. He told me that there were a lot of Jewish values in the story, so I did a lot of thinking.

A lot of my family members live in Israel and some live on the most famous moshav there--The Nahalal Moshav.  There are no children's books about life on a moshav, so I contacted my cousins in Israel and asked them to send me photographs of the tractors that they drive, the houses that they live in, the clothes that they wear, animals that they have, and things that they keep in their pantry. Then I rewrote the book. The editors loved the story, but they wanted the date to take place during Hanukkah.

Sally: You really play around with language. Talk about the word play.

Karen: When my daughter was about 3 or so, I began the quest for the purr-fect puns for my characters. If I was working on a cat book, I'd look through the whole dictionary and list words like purr-fect, purr-fectionist. If it was a book with a cow, I’d jot down  moo-vies or moo-ve over. In "Farmer Kobi's Hanukkah Match," I needed puns for geese, goats, and donkey.  First I write the dialog as if people were talking, making sure that it flows easily and is not labored, then I stick in animal puns where I can. 

Sally: Favorite Hanukkah food?

Karen: My mother’s latkes. We have them every Hanukkah.  I used to help her make them, now my daughter helps her. Here’s what you need:
pound bag of Yukon gold potatoes (wash--don't peel them)
1 1/2 onions
3 eggs
1/4 cup matzo meal
1 tsp baking soda

Shred the potatoes. Then take 1/3 of all of the potato shreds and turn them into mush (a food processor works well).
Mix together the 2/3 shredded potatoes and the 1/3 mush with 3 eggs, 1/4 cup matzo meal, pepper to taste, and 1 tsp baking soda.
Put the oil in a frying pan and get it hot. Then use a tablespoon to measure out each latke, and fry until it’s brown it on both sides. Put latkes on a paper towel to drain.

You can find out more about Karen and her books at her websiteReview copy from the publisher.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know about this Hanukkah gem! I have to get a copy. I love that you interviewed the author, this added so much to your good review.