Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas
illustrated by Anjan Sarkar
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 2017)
Children will learn what a fried dosa is by reading this delightful Chanukah story about a family who blends their Indian culture with the holiday traditions (Mom’s Indian; Dad’s Jewish). Sadie’s older brother — who thinks she climbs too much — attends Hebrew school and learns the dreidel song, changing the words to lure Sadie from climbing everywhere. When the family is invited to a Chanukah celebration, everyone gets locked out — but Sadie saves the day using her climbing skills. Bright end papers show unique Indian ingredients used to make the food. Ages: 4-7.
The Missing Letters: A Dreidel Story
illustrated by Iryna Bodnaruk
(Kar-Ben Publishing; 2017)
The dreidel letters Nun, Hey and Shin come alive in this fanciful picture book. Jealous of the Gimels, which always win, the others propose to get rid of the Gimels in the dreidel maker’s shop. The dreidel maker is overheard saying that all the dreidel letters are important and special, explaining the importance of the dreidel during the time of the Maccabees when Jews were not allowed to study Torah and the game of dreidel was their cover. The dreidel letters realize just in time that they need to return the Gimels so the dreidel maker can complete the dreidels. The dreidel game is explained on the back page. Ages: 4-9.
Way Too Many Latkes: A Chanukah in Chelm
illustratEd by Aleksandar Zolotic
(Kar–Ben Publishing; 2017)
The city of Chelm, “Village of Fools,” is the setting of this Jewish folktale. Everyone who has tasted Faigel’s latkes dreams of them. But she can’t remember how many potatoes, eggs or onions are to be used in the recipe so her husband runs to ask the rabbi for advice: The rabbi says to use all of them. When the latkes are done, they realize they cannot eat them all so the whole village is invited to eat their latkes. A note on Chelm stories is explained at the end of the book. Ages: 4-9.
illustrated by Dave Horowitz
(Doubleday books for young readers; 2014)
Folksinger Woody Guthrie wrote this song and the words dance through the pages of this delightful picture book, which includes a CD by the Klezmatics. The illustrations are large, colorful and full of movement. Family members play drums, guitar and clarinet, the dog is dancing and the menorahs are large in the windows. “It’s Honeyky Hanukah, huggy me tight. It’s Hanukah day, and it’s Hanukah night.” The last two pages tell Woody Guthrie’s New York story, and how he was moved to write songs celebrating Jewish life. Ages 3-7.
Hanukkah Cookies with Sprinkles
David A. Adler
illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler
Behrman/Apples & Honey Press (2015)
The message of tzedakah and welcoming strangers permeates through this charming, brightly colored picture book. From her window, Sara spots an elderly man rummaging through the damaged fruit in a crate at the side of Sol’s market. Her family invites him to their house for a Chanukah dinner after they meet at synagogue services. He discovers Sara left him Chanukah cookies with sprinkles, sandwiches and a menorah. Besides helping out at the synagogue, Mr. Berger used to work for a circus. Sara would love to learn his juggling tricks, implying that he will visit them again. A note for families about Chanukah is found on the last page. Ages 4-8.
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins
illustrated by trina schart hyman
(Holiday House — 25-year anniversary
special edition; 2014)
In this Caldecott Honor Book, Hershel of Ostropol strolls into the next village on the first night of Chanukah expecting lights and festivities, but the village is still and dark. Hershel is told the goblins will not let the villagers celebrate the holiday. The only way to break the spell is by staying and lighting the Chanukah candles each night in the old synagogue. On the last night, the king of the goblins must light the menorah to break the spell. Each night, Hershel outwits a larger and larger goblin and then the king of the goblins appears early. Though scared, Hershel tricks the king of goblins and saves the day, just as the Maccabees defeated the Syrians and took back the temple. Ages 5-8.
The Parakeet Named Dreidel
Isaac Bashevis Singer
illustrated by Suzanne Raphael Berkson
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, BYR; 2015)
This was originally one of eight Chanukah short stories in the author’s The Power of Light, published in 1980. David and his father rescue a parakeet that has landed on a windowsill as their Chanukah menorah is burning. The parakeet speaks Yiddish as it babbles “Zeldele go to sleep,” (Zeldele, geh schlofen). No one claims the bird and they enjoy the parakeet they name Dreidel for nine years. Now in college, David tells this story to his friends and they discover the parakeet belonged to his college friend Zelda. David and Zelda marry and the matchmaking parakeet — who developes a taste for latkes — stays in the family. Throughout the story there is warmth and caring for the parakeet and the closeness of the family is felt. The expressive colorful illustrations appear to tell the story without words. Ages 5-8.
Hanukkah in Alaska
illustrated by Stacey Schuett
(Harry Holt and Company; 2013)
This story was part of the anthology A Chanukah Treasury, edited by Eric Kimmel in 1998. Acrylic and gouache paintings light up the pages in this picture-book rendition. Blue and purple hues depict the cold winter and the darkness that covers Alaska for many hours each day. The family goes out into the night to see the northern lights and is reminded of the beautiful wax colors of the Chanukah candles as they stare at the sky. The author’s note at the end of the book explains the phenomenon of the northern lights and the story and customs of Chanukah. Ages 4-8.
FRANCINE MENKEN Special to the Jewish News
Francine Menken, MLIS, is the director of the Henry & Delia Meyers Library and Media Center, Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit in West Bloomfield.