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.

Alan Silberberg (Courtesy photo)

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.

Silberberg says the book is meant to be read aloud in funny voices, and it’s already been a hit with his small sample preview audience, which includes his grown son and 92-year-old mother-in-law.
“Meet the Latkes” by Alan Silberberg (Courtesy photo)
“Meet the Latkes” by Alan Silberberg (Courtesy photo)
Silberberg got his start at University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he created his own niche major: cartoon communication education. He went on to work at Nickelodeon and Disney, and he knew he someday wanted to tell Jewish stories through cartoons.
“I grew up watching ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas.’ I loved TV as a kid, and I loved holiday specials. But there was never a Hanukkah one,” he says. He hopes that someday his potatoes might end up on the small screen. Next up, hopefully, is a sequel: “Meet the Matzah.” In the meantime, he works in Montreal (which has terrific bagels, he says).
The book comes out Oct. 16. Learn more about Alan here.