One of the best things about the book fair is getting to read all the new books. I had a head start this year since I've been using Netgalleys. Netgalleys.com is a free website that allows you to register and then read books (using an electronic device) before they are published in exchange for reviewing them. I'm always happy to give my opinion (just ask anyone around me!) so for me, it works out pretty well! But at the book fair, there were several books that I hadn't seen (in book stores or on Netgalley).
The first one is by one of my favorite authors, Eric Kimmel. Eric Kimmel writes folk tales and uses all different illustrators depending on the folk tale. The stories are amazing and the art work always matches the stories so the books all look really different. The one that was in the book fair this fall is called "Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale". It's about a boy named Simon who is sailing from Poland to New York by himself. His mother and sisters are back in Poland (he's going to send for them as soon as he makes enough money) and his dad is gone. The trip is not easy but suddenly, the ship hits an iceberg and starts to sink. Simon is lucky enough to get into a life boat when suddenly a man in a huge fur coat comes and wants to get into the boat. There isn't enough room so the man gives Simon his pocket watch to give to his son in NY. Simon decides that he should give up his place in the lifeboat so that the man's son will not have to be without his father. The man gets in the lifeboat and sails away and Simon ends up on an iceberg with his Hanukkah menorah and some candles. The rest of the story is about courage and luck and the miracles of Hanukkah. The pictures are beautiful and it has a very happy ending. You are going to love this one!
The second one that I found at the book fair that was a big happy surprise was "I know an old lady who swallowed a dreidel" by Caryn Yacowitz. There have been a large number of riffs on the "I know an old lady" theme, some more successful than others. This one is awesome. First of all, if you need a little background information on Jewish culture, this is a nice, easy place to start. There are references to the foods (like bagels, which aren't typical for Hanukkah as well as latkes and brisket, which are) as well as the games (the dreidel and the geld). What really makes this one amazing is the art work. Each part of the song has a different famous piece of art that goes with it. For example, when the grandmother swallows the dreidel, the artist puts her in Edward Munch's famous painting "The Scream". There are also references to Andy Warhol, Rodin, Andrew Wyeth, and Henri Matisse, just to name a few. Art teachers are going to LOVE this one and it should work great with the new Common Core standards where kids are expected to make connections to art (as well as video and sound).
There is also a new version of "My Grandfather's Coat" by Jim Aylesworth. This is a folktale about a man who has a coat that keeps getting recycled. It was first made famous by Simms Taback in a version called "Joseph had a little overcoat". This version is nicely repetitive with interesting vocabulary and lovely pictures. It would make a good addition to your library, especially if you wanted to compare and contrast to the Simms Taback version.