Penina Levine is a Potato Pancake by Rebecca O’Connell, illustrated by Majella Lue Sue
Roaring Brook Press, 2008. 978-1596432130
Synopsis: Penina should be excited about Hanukkah, but everything seems to be going wrong. Her presents aren’t ready, her four-year-old sister insists upon being the center of attention, her favorite teacher is leaving, and her best friend just told her that she’s going on vacation to Aruba for Christmas vacation. Plus, she’s gotten in the middle of an argument between her mother and grandmother. Will a blizzard, dozens of snowflakes, and a hearty helping of latkes really be enough to fix the holiday and spread some much needed cheer.
Why I picked it up: I was looking to give some other holidays besides Christmas some love.
Why I finished it: This book reminded me a lot of Danziger’s Amber Brown books: a spunky main character that finds herself fighting to right a somewhat sticky situation that she may or may not have helped create. Penina is caught somewhere between doing the right thing and being selfish. She wants to remember the real meaning behind Hanukkah, but a younger sister and the news of her teacher’s departure is making it hard for her to enjoy the holiday. It makes us remember our own struggles, those days when nothing seems to be going right. And while some of the situations get blown out of proportion, that’s part of growing up. O’Connell’s characters are supremely real and the fact that the reader can identify with them makes the story so much more enjoyable and worth reading. Sue’s illustrations give us a window into the characters lives and make them much more three-dimensional. The pictures have a free-flowing quality to them that highlights the fun and whimsical elements of the plot. It’s a fun holiday read that can be enjoyed by all readers – not just those of us that celebrate Hanukkah.
Other related materials: Penina Levine is a Hard-Boiled Egg by Rebecca O’Connell, illustrated by Majella Lue Sue; Amber Brown books by Paula Danziger; Judy Moody books by Megan McDonald; Clementine by Sara Pennypacker; Cam Jansen books by David A. Alder; Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren; Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary; Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary; Rules by Cynthia Lord