Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel by Caryn Yacowitz

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, I was a branch manager searching for a children's librarian. Each candidate had to do a program for us, one suitable for children. I spent a year interviewing before Ann Minner showed up with her puppets, Chick, a small white mouse, and her beat poet orangutan. (Thank heavens for Ann!) Until Ann, I must have sat through a dozen versions of  I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly (OK, I know it only seemed that way). I never wanted to hear the story again. Imagine my shock to open a package yesterday and find a picture book in it, I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel. But author Caryn Yacowitz, along with illustrator David Slonim, have created a fun, fascinating book that will capture the attention of children and adults alike.

A family shows up at Bubbe's house to celebrate Chanukah. She has a wonderful dinner for them, but the cat accidentally drops a dreidel on the table, and Bubbe swallows it, thinking it's a bagel. Perhaps it's fatal! From there, Bubbe goes through a number of holiday rituals involving oil, latkes, and even the menorah.

So far, that's just a cute Chanukah story incorporating elements of the holiday celebration, perfect for the intended audience of four to eight-year-olds. And, children will enjoy looking for the cat throughout the book. But, Yacowitz and Slonim did so much more to catch the eye of the adult reader. They turned each element of the story into a parody of a famous piece of art, from Rodin's The Thinker to Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. It's fun for adults, and can be used for art instruction for children. Since you had to see some for yourself, I photographed the back cover of the book.

I'm sure you recognize the original paintings. Slonim has an artist's note at the end of the book, showing each of the fourteen parodies, along with the title of the original work of art, artist information, and where the artwork is.

Without the artwork, Caryn Yacowitz' I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel would have been just another cute version of a familiar story, but perfect for Chanukah. With Slonim's artwork, it becomes a fun book, but also a book to discuss and share.

Caryn Yacowitz' website is

David Slonim's website is

I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel by Caryn Yacowitz & illusrated by David Slonim. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2014. ISBN 9780439915304 (hardcover).

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Lori's Reading Corner said...

LOVE it! I just pre-ordered for my mom.

libraryann said...

Chick and Ozum are STILL going strong!
Love you!

Nancy said...

This is a book that I would have loved reading to my kids or grandkids.

Lesa said...

Oh, great, Lori! I'm so glad.

Lesa said...

Oh, great, Lori! I'm so glad.

Lesa said...


That's the best news ever. To my favorite "rock star"!

Lesa said...

It's just a fun book, Nancy. The illustrator is from Indiana, so I passed my ARC on to our Youth Services Supervisor today.