The author Richard Simon, in his Author Note, says, "Oskar is the fruit of the idea that what needs to be saved is not just lives, but hope."
The story is about Oskar, a Jewish boy who is trying to find his Aunt Esther in the jungle known as New York. He arrives at the harbour travelling by himself on the seventh day of Hanukkah, which is also Christmas Eve. He needs to get to his Aunt's house in time to light the menorah at sunset.
As he makes his way down Broadway he discovers the truth in his father's parting words, "You have to look for the blessings." As foretold in the title, Oskar gives and receives eight blessings during his journey across the town. A woman feeding pigeons shares her loaf of bread with the hungry boy. A man at a bookstall introduces him to Superman and gives him a free comic. Oskar has his first conversation with an American as he shares a tune with a man at Carnagie Hall. He emulates his hero Superman and saves a boy about to slip on the ice. The boy in return gives him a pair of mittens to warm his bare, cold hands. He even experiences a kind word from Mrs Roosevelt. He finally reaches his Aunt in time to celebrate his festival.
The story is written for 6-8-year-olds with large vibrant pictures. Yet, this is no ordinary picture book. Any adult reading it to a child will note the nuances. The prologue is dark and you realize this child is sent by himself to America to escape the Holocaust in Europe. You see military issue boots and a burning synagogue. The illustrations are layered with hidden details which you notice only the second time around. This can also be used to teach children about human kindness and empathy. With older children, it is a great springboard to discuss history and social issues.
This is a book about refugees. It is about humanity. It is about diversity. It is relevant in today's troubled world. Overall, it is about how "Even in bad times, people can be good. You have only to look for the blessings."
I found this in the Children's Section of the Public Library.