The first thing that grabs your attention about this picture book is the incredible illustrations. Richard Ungar, a practicing lawyer by day and a phenomenal artist by night, has created another notable book about Jewish tradition. As a relief from the seriousness of legal work, Ungar has a positive, light-hearted sense of humor which he brings to both his writing and illustrating.
After spending years illustrating other people’s work, Ungar began writing his own stories to accompany his arresting illustrations. This book shows that he is highly qualified to be called a professional in both areas. I was surprised to learn that he works in watercolor. The vivid, smudged, heavy look of his art made me think of oil pastel. However, he uses watercolor on the entire painting but adds to it with pencil crayon. If you look at the cover of Yitsy and the Giant Menorah, you can see where pencil crayon was used to outline the giant menorah and add detail to the little boy. As you read through the book, each page of illustration explodes into your mind.
The story is a quirky, humorous tale of the inability of a small town to adequately repay a generous gift of a giant menorah. No matter what they do to show their appreciation to the mayor, something goes wrong. The villagers spend almost every night of Hanukkah trying to create the perfect gift of reciprocation. As in most spiritual stories, an innocent child is the one who leads them back into the light. The story ends happily showing that the simplest gifts are actually the most valuable.
A wonderful, meaningful story for any child. Greatly recommended.
I was given a free copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.