Oskar and the Eight Blessings

by Tanya Simon (Author) Mark Siegel (Illustrator)

Oskar and the Eight Blessings
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

A refugee seeking sanctuary from the horrors of Kristallnacht, Oskar arrives by ship in New York City with only a photograph and an address for an aunt he has never met. It is both the seventh day of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, 1938. As Oskar walks the length of Manhattan, from the Battery to his new home in the north of the city, he passes experiences the city's many holiday sights, and encounters it various residents. Each offers Oskar a small act of kindness, welcoming him to the city and helping him on his way to a new life in the new world. This is a heartwarming, timeless picture book.


Kirkus Reviews

This Hanukkah tale is deeply intertwined with its New York setting.

New Yorkers know that just about anything can be found in New York City: a waterfall in the middle of the block, a tiny museum in an elevator, lox-flavored ice cream. New York is full of miracles, and this book is nothing but miracles. Put on a ship by his parents after the rise of the Nazis in Europe, Oskar arrives in New York on the seventh day of Hanukkah (it is also Christmas Eve) and must walk 100 blocks uptown from Battery Park to the home of an aunt he doesn’t know. As he walks up Broadway, a woman hands him bread, and a young boy hands him mittens. Oskar whistles a duet, on the spur of the moment, with a man whom a poster reveals to be Count Basie. (Eleanor Roosevelt also makes a cameo.) These things happen in New York. When he said goodbye, Oskar’s father told him: “even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings.” The blessings here are so bountiful that readers may not be surprised even when a newsstand vendor gives Oskar a copy of the very first Superman comic. Siegel’s paneled illustrations make anything seem possible. The people don’t look quite real, and they don’t look like cartoons. They look like chalk drawings on a sidewalk, just starting to fade. They glow.

People used to say that the streets of America were paved with gold, and this book almost makes you believe it. (historical note, map) (Picture book. 4-8)

Copyright 2015 Kirkus Reviews, LLC Used with permission

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

In the wake of Kristallnacht, Oskar's parents send him off alone to New York City to live with his Aunt Esther, who he has never met. The "terribly small" boy arrives on a December day in 1938 that's both the seventh night of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, and makes his way 100 blocks up Broadway to reach his aunt's house. The final words of Oskar's father--"Even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for blessings"--are affirmed as the boy crosses paths with eight New Yorkers from all walks of life (including cameos from Count Basie and Eleanor Roosevelt). The Simons' moving, reserved text is beautifully paired with Siegel's vivid, canvas-textured drawings, which borrow the dramatic framings and emotional energy of contemporary graphic novels. This is a book that's wonderfully original in every way--right up to the afterword providing historical context and a map of Oskar's walk. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)

Copyright 2015 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

PreS-Gr 2--On the seventh day of Hanukkah in 1938, which also happens to be Christmas Eve, a young refugee boy named Oskar arrives in New York City from the horrors of Nazi Europe with only a photograph and an address to find an aunt he has never meet. As Oskar walks the length of Manhattan, from the Battery to his aunt's home in the north end of the city, he passes and encounters the city's many holiday sights and residents. Each person he meets offers Oskar a small act of kindness, such as the newsstand man who gives Oskar a Superman comic book. Each encounter is a reference to an event which took place in the city in 1938. A constant for Oskar is remembering his father's last words, "Oskar, even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings." The majority of illustrations are presented in variously sized panels that move the story along, with inserts of long panel illustrations that serve as a glimpse of Oskar's experiences. VERDICT A wonderful, heartwarming picture book for any library at any time of year.--Diane Olivo-Posner Los Angeles Public Library

Copyright 2015 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Eloquently rendered in art and text. . . The descriptive prose has lyrical touches, while vibrantly accented, softly-shaded illustrations incorporate varying perspectives and historical details." — Booklist, starred review

"A wonderful, heartwarming picture book for any library at any time of year." — School Library Journal, starred review

"Wonderfully original in every way." — Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Siegel's paneled illustrations make anything seem possible. . . They glow. People used to say that the streets of America were paved with gold, and this book almost makes you believe it." — Kirkus Reviews

Tanya Simon

Richard Simon and Tanya Simon are a husband-and-wife writing team. Richard is chair of the language department at an independent school and is co-author of a successful off-Broadway play. Tanya is co-author of the children's novel Zora and Me, winner of a Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent. They live in Westchester, New York. Oskar and the Eight Blessings is their first picture book.

Mark Siegel has illustrated a number of picture books, including the Texas Bluebonnet winner Seadogs with Lisa Wheeler and the Siebert Honor book To Dance, with his wife, Siena Cherson Siegel. He wrote and illustrated the New York Times bestselling graphic novel Sailor Twain, Or the Mermaid in the Hudson. He lives in New York with his family.

Classification
Fiction
ISBN-13
9781596439498
Lexile Measure
570L
Guided Reading Level
L
Publication date
September 20, 2015
Series
-
National Jewish Book Award
Winner 2015 - 2015

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