Simon and the Bear

illus. by Matthew Trueman. 40p. Disney-Hyperion. 2014. RTE $16.99. ISBN 9781423143550.
K-Gr 2—Combining elements of the classic immigrant tale with magical realism and a dash of Titanic, this story follows young Simon as he leaves his family behind in the old country, sailing on a ship to America. Packed in his knapsack are a menorah, candles, a dreidel, and latkes to celebrate Hanukkah during the crossing. When the ship strikes an iceberg on the first night of the holiday, fatherless Simon gives up his seat in a lifeboat to a man whose little boy is waiting for him in New York. As the ship sinks, Simon jumps onto the iceberg where he lights his menorah and hopes for a miracle, "just as one happened for the Maccabees long ago." Suddenly a polar bear appears out of the darkness and pulls itself onto the iceberg, eating the latkes and other food Simon offers her. Over the next several days, it catches fish for Simon and cuddles up with him at night to keep him warm. On the last night of Hanukkah, Simon lights the last of his candles, shares his last latke with the bear, and hopes for one more miracle, which arrives in the form of a rescue boat, sent from a passing ship that has seen his fully lit menorah. The icy dark night is masterfully depicted in a watercolor palette of rich blues punctured by brilliant stars and the warm glow of the candles. The iceberg is given substance and depth by the use of what appears to be folded paper that has been crumpled and painted, while the hefty figure of the polar bear is worked in gouache softened with pastel. With its fine storyteller's language and themes of selflessness and miracles, this is a book that is sure to bring pleasure and meaning to Hanukkah celebrations. An author's note on the history of the holiday is included.—Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library
Young immigrant Simon travels to America aboard a ship that sinks on Hanukkah. He gives another passenger his lifeboat spot and camps out on an iceberg. Sharing latkes with a polar bear pays off in body heat and fish; his Hanukkah candles catch the attention of a passing ship. Illustrations with frequent images of light in darkness evoke the Hanukkah spirit.
Young immigrant Simon travels to America on a ship whose fate mirrors that of the Titanic, but this ship sinks on Hanukkah, a holiday that encourages faith in miracles. Simon gives another passenger his spot on a lifeboat and camps out on an iceberg. Sharing his latkes with a polar bear pays off in body heat and fish, and soon his Hanukkah candles bring about his rescue by catching the attention of a passing ship. Illustrations with frequent images of light in darkness combine with the recurring theme of miracles to evoke the Hanukkah spirit. shoshana flax

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing