Remember the Nickelodeon cartoon “Doug”? Or wacky game show “Double Dare”? If you came of age in the 1980s and 1990s, chances are they were part of your daily rotation. Alan Silberberg wrote for both shows, and he even penned the immortal “Doug” tune “Killer Tofu.”
Now the Worcester native has come out with an illustrated kids’ book called “Meet the Latkes” (Penguin), about a family of potato pancakes who discover the true meaning of Hanukkah with some silly misinterpretations along the way. There’s Lex, the sullen teen spud who doesn’t care about anything; Grandpa Latke, who tries to explain Hanukkah to granddaughter Lucy with some slightly confused references to Mega Bees; and a dog, Applesauce, who sets the record straight. There’s a handy glossary at the back of the book, outlining common Hanukkah references in kid-friendly terms.
The idea sprung from doodles that Silberberg, a longtime middle-school novelist, sent to family and friends around the holidays. His agent finally suggested that he turn the annual greeting into a book, and his editor urged him to add a sassy canine foil to offset Grandpa’s ramblings.
“Plus, in the story, the latkes were also making latkes, which implied some sort of cannibalism, which turned people off,” he says with a laugh. Now the latkes are humanized, and there are no latke-eating scenes. The Hanukkah explanations also help the book appeal to a non-Jewish audience.