An eight-day celebration that begins on the 25th day of the Jewish calendar month of Kislev, Hanukkah often occurs during December, but occasionally begins during November, as it does this year. Hanukkah 2013 is celebrated from sundown on November 27 (Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.A.) and ends on the evening of December 5th.
Hanukkah (also commonly spelled “Chanukah”) means “rededication” in Hebrew and is often called the Festival of Lights. It is one of the better known and joyous holidays for the Jewish community, but is not an especially important religious occasion. It is, however, a wonderful time for gathering and celebrating with family and friends.

Web links to additional information and activities about Hanukkah follow these reviews.

Contributor: Peg Glisson


Boris and Stella and the Perfect Holiday Gift

Dara Goldman

In this retelling of the holiday classic The Gift of the Magi, Boris, a pianist, wants to give his friend Stella a gift for Christmas; Stella is a baker who wants to wants to give Boris a Hanukkah gift. Both sell something valuable in order to afford a gift for the other, and discover what is most valuable in the process. Goldman’s ursine Boris and Stella look warm and fuzzy, and the blues in her palette visually tie together Hanukkah and the night skies of Christmas. Books that speak to both Jewish and Christian holiday traditions are rare, and this sweet tale of friendship and generosity is an ideal gift for children of interfaith families. 2013, Sleeping Bear, Ages 6 to 8, $15.99.

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9781585368594

Caleb’s Hanukkah

Lisa Bullard

Illustrated by Constanza Basaluzzo

Part of the Cloverleaf Books Fall and Winter Holidays series, this book informs as it entertains, about the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Separated into four chapters, the book begins with the Hanukkah story, followed by the miracle of Hanukkah, the lighting of the candles in commemoration of the miracle, and dreidel time. The work ends with a hands-on craft of making a dreidel out of a milk carton, a glossary, sources to learn more, and a brief index. The colorful illustrations leads one to want to read this book aloud, although the call out boxes on the pages for definitions and additional information can make this hard or awkward, although these tidbits of information help the uninitiated or unfamiliar reader to better understand the story. This book is a wonderful introduction to the holiday of Hanukkah, the story of the holiday as well as traditions and celebrations, for non-Jews and Jews alike. For adults and educators there is a link to complementary educational resources for the book available at www.lernerresource.com. The index lends this book to be useful for very young children to begin the research process, finding pages of interest such as latkes, menorah, temple, dreidel, and Israel. This will be welcome in any children’s collection for grades preK to three, and can be used as well with other children as an introduction to an unfamiliar holiday. 2013, Millbrook, Ages 4 to 9, $6.99.

REVIEWER: Sara Rofofsky Marcus (Catholic Library World).

ISBN: 9780761385875

The Eighth Menorah

Lauren Wohl

Illustrated by Laura Hughes

Sam knows that his family already has plenty of menorahs, so when his Hebrew school teacher announces a menorah project for Hanukkah, Sam fears his will be useless. He works diligently on it and keeps it hidden, but still worries it won’t serve a purpose. It is only when his grandmother and her friends share their own predicament that Sam comes to realize his menorah will find a beautiful home. Brightly colored and empathic pictures by Hughes bring this charming Hanukkah story to life. 2013, Albert Whitman, Ages 4 to 7, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9780807518922

Emanuel and the Hanukkah Rescue

Heidi Smith Hyde

Illustrated by Jamel Akib

In this beautifully illustrated and evocative tale set in the 18th century, Emanuel is a Jewish boy living in the whaling town of New Bedford, Mass. Emanuel’s father, a merchant near the sea who lived as a secret Jew in Portugal until he immigrated to America, still suffers from fear of religious persecution. Emanuel pleads with him to celebrate Hanukkah by placing the menorah lights on the window sill, but he resists. It is only when Emanuel takes matters into his own hands that his father realizes the true meaning of freedom and miracles. Akib’s chalk pastels set a somber yet hopeful mood perfectly, while the captivating storytelling will keep young readers glued.
2012, Kar-Ben, Ages 5-9, $17.95.

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9781467700597

Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster

Jane Sutton

Illustrated by Andy Rowland

In this adorable and brightly illustrated Hanukkah story from Sutton (Don’t Call Me Sidney) and Rowland (Little Nelly’s Big Book), Esther the gorilla joyfully sets out to the Jungle Store to get everything she needs to give Hanukkah presents to her friends. She happily chooses the gifts, but as she hands them out to her monkey, elephant, hyena, turtle, and zebra pals, Esther realizes that her gifts may not have been as perfectly thought-out as she had hoped (such as the jogging suit she purchases for the turtle). Esther’s innocent mistakes and her ingenious solution will prompt laughter. 2013, Lerner, Ages 4-9, $17.95.

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9780761390442

Hanukkah Bear

Eric A. Kimmel

Illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka

One winter night Old Bear wakes up from hibernation to a delicious smell. Bubba Brayna has been making “the best potato latkes in the village,” despite her age and her poor eyesight and hearing. She has cooked twice as many as usual because she expects the rabbi this Hanukkah night. When Old Bear knocks on her door, she thinks it is the rabbi and welcomes him. As the bear makes various sounds, hard of hearing Bubba Brayna interprets them as best she can. After she lights the candles on the menorah and says the blessing, Old Bear gobbles down all the latkes. She sends him home with a muffler she has knitted. When her friends arrive, she tells them that the rabbi has eaten all the latkes. Of course he denies it. Seeing bear tracks, they decide that it was “…a very clever bear…or a very foolish Bubba Brayna.” As Old Bear sleeps content in his den, the villagers all work together to make more latkes for the holiday. The stylized hungry bear and the smiling Bubba fill the single and double pages with fun. Acrylic paints produce warmth to set the humble interior aglow. 2013 (orig. 1988 and 1990), Holiday House, Ages 4 to 8, $16.95.

REVIEWERS: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780823428557

Hanukkah in Alaska

Barbara Brown

Illustrated by Stacey Schuett

Marking her children’s book debut, Alaska-based columnist and commentator Brown crafts an informative Hanukkah tale accompanied by lovely acrylic and gouache illustrations by Schuett (Out of This World: Poems and Facts About Space). With just five hours of sunlight and freezing temperatures to fill her days in Alaska, a girl must also contend with the moose in her yard, where she prefers to make snow dreidels with friends. Even as Hanukkah’s lights glow brightly, she despairs of ever regaining control of her backyard. Children will gain information about Alaska as well as a clever holiday-themed idea for keeping moose at bay. 2013, Henry Holt, Ages 4-8, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9780805097481

Hanukkah: Rookie Read-About Holidays

Lisa M. Herrington

Most Hanukkah books suffer from the same problem as the holiday itself. They are trying too hard to make Jewish children feel that Hanukkah is an equivalent holiday to Christmas. In its very simplicity aimed at early readers, this Hanukkah book achieves what the more elaborate books do not: it tells the story of the holiday in short, succinct phrases and does not elaborate on the celebration beyond its actual practice. Aimed at early readers, the print font is big and clear with relatively accessible language for young children or adults sharing the book with young children. Of course, the vocabulary of the holiday gives the reader multi-syllable words that will take an adult’s intervention to break into easier “bites.” The words are defined within the text of the book, with only a very brief glossary in the back. There is a table of contents that essentially identifies the major parts of the book: the holiday, the history, the observation, and the celebration. Illustrations are photographs related to the text without a common look. There are “Fast Fact bubbles” that provide trivia, such as the fact that the Hanukkah menorah is actually called a “hanukkiyah.” The emphasis is not on the eight days of presents, although they are mentioned, but on the very basic meaning and practice of the holiday. Back matter includes some very easy crafts, the aforementioned glossary, a comprehension test, index, and a website connection. This is exactly the book that parents of pre-schools, pre-school teachers, and very young readers need to understand the real meaning of Hanukkah. 2013, Scholastic, Ages 2 to 6, $23.00.

REVIEWER: Lois Rubin Gross (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780531272015

Happy Hanukkah, Curious George

Emily Flaschner Meyer

Illustrated by Mary O’Keefe Young

At last, Curious George has declared his Judaism to the world! In fact, the little monkey, always on the run, fled the Holocaust in the bicycle basket of his creators, H.A. and Margret Rey. Therefore, it is entirely proper that George, the monkey, at last celebrates the festival of light and freedom with children. This is a curiously constructed book; a board book with seven two page poems describing the happy holiday celebration. It would have made sense to extend the book for two more pages and have a poem that could be shared on each of the eight night celebration. The book is tabbed, like a loose leaf notebook, so that children can turn to poems describing holiday fun; the lighting of the menorah, playing with a dreidel; making latkes, a typically “naughty George” moment; and the performance of mitzvoth (good deeds) which is a more modern interpretation of spreading the holiday’s joy. The rhymes and textual explanations are simple enough for a young child, but wordier than most board books. The section, Yummy, Yummy, in George’s Tummy, about making latkes (never defined as pancakes) is composed of couplets that snap and sizzle with onomatopoeic cooking words that will be fun to read. Multi-ethnic children dressed in vaguely mid-century period outfits celebrate with George and the one little boy wears a kipot. However, the adult men are bareheaded as the Man (without) the Yellow Hat lights the candles. No historical context is provided for the holiday. This is strictly a snapshot of a latter-day Hanukkah celebration. This will be a cheery introduction to the holiday for young children and, by the length of its rhymes, extends the age range by a year or two. 2012, Houghton Mifflin, Ages 2 to 5, $7.99.

REVIEWER: Lois Rubin Gross (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780547757315

How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah?

Jane Yolen

Illustrated by Mark Teague

Yolen and Teague score a winner with this playful Chanukah story brought to life with bright and engaging illustrations. Each page poses a question of how a dinosaur would behave during the eight days of Hanukkah with a cute rhyme like, “Does he peek at the presents stashed under Dad’s bed?/ Does he write his own name on each gift card instead?” Each possible mischievous behavior illustrates one aspect of the holiday, including playing dreidel, lighting candles, and sharing gelt. Children will appreciate the larger-than-life dinosaurs and their amusing antics and learn just how to behave during this fun holiday. 2012, Blue Sky, Up to age 4. $16.99.

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9780545416771

Jeremy’s Dreidel

Ellie Gellman

Illustrated by Maria Mola

Endearing illustrations highlight this sweet Hanukkah story about a boy who creates a special dreidel for his father. As the children gather at the Jewish Community Center for dreidel making, Jeremy meets some friends who have come with innovative plans to craft the traditional Hanukkah toy out of recycled materials, to design one that sings, and even to fashion a dreidel that bounces. But it is Jeremy’s idea of constructing a dreidel with braille letters as a gift for his blind father that most intrigues his classmates. Vivid colors and kid-friendly narration will help young readers learn about this important topic with sensitivity. 2012, Kar-Ben , Ages 5-9, $17.95

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9780761375074

Room for the Baby

Michelle Edwards

“When somebody had something they didn’t need anymore, they gave it to my mom,” says the son of a master seamstress. “Everyone knew Mom would put it all to good use.” But when Mom announces at Passover that the narrator is going to be a big brother by Hanukkah-and that the baby’s room will be her former sewing room-the boy wonders if his mother has met her match: “Could Mom really use up all that stuff before the baby is born?” Unfortunately, it’s hard to believe readers will care all that much, especially since the narrator’s role in the resolution is minimal and the enviable sewing room is hardly a hoarder’s den-how much room does a baby need, anyway? Edwards (The Hanukkah Trike) and Christy (You Are the Best Medicine) offer a sweet-natured chronicle of a mother’s ingenuity and the collective joy shared by a tight-knit community at the prospect of a new arrival. But with Mom so unflappable and no displacement anxiety on the part of the boy, the narrative stakes are low and emotions remain even-keeled. 2012, Random House, Ages 3-6, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9780375870903

Updated 11/01/13

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