Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Ant and the Rabbi

The great thing about doing book events with young kids--especially when your own are all grown up and moved away--is how often they surprise you with their fresh perspectives.  With their vision, if you will.  This definitely includes the youngest ones.   

Let's take last Sunday night at the JCC of Greater Washington's Book Festival.  I was doing a poetry presentation, and had just performed a poem from Maybe I'll Sleep in the Bathtub Tonight--"Snack Attack."  The poem is about a girl named Essie and her habit of snacking in bed.  Up on the screen was the page from the book.  I had also put a little Jewish star on the slide; since this was the JCC, I was having some fun challenging the kids to find a few Jewish elements here and there among the poems.  Here's the page:

Okay, for me, the Jewish element in the poem was the character's name--I had named Essie for the Yiddish word ess or essen--eat.  It was just my private little (tiny) joke with myself.  I thought a parent might get it.  I thought the kids would think of Queen Esther.

"What's Jewish in this poem?  What's Jewish on this page?" I ask.

No hesitation.  "The chicken!" one child calls out.

Huh.  Well, yes, among the foods pictured in the feast strewn across Essie's bed there appear to be some roast chicken legs.  What's more Jewish than roast chicken, right?

"Great!  What else?"

A very small boy is saying something I can't quite make out.  I lean in to hear better. 

"Mumblety-bumblety-mumblety--an ant is all dressed up in his fancy black clothes and hat like a rabbi going to shul!" he finally gets out.

Yes.  So much more creative than my own essen idea, which now seems absolutely lame in comparison.

Thanks to the JCC for hosting me.

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