Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Light up the Darkness with Hanukkah Books

[cross-posted at Librarian Mom]


Like many Jewish kids, my daughter ends up getting read a lot of Chanukah books around this time of year. It’s one way for her to connect to her Jewish heritage and traditions at a time of year when sometimes it feels like the whole known world is one big Christmas celebration!


Over the years, we’ve progressed from the very simplest board books to some meatier titles. Here are some picks from our Chanukah bookshelf:

This original tale has everything you need in a kid’s book, really: a wily trickster figure (Hershel of Ostropol, based on a famous character of Jewish folklore) a seemingly impossible task (to defeat the goblins and bring back Chanukah by lighting all eight nights of candles in the old, haunted synagogue) and, best of all, a cast of truly monsterish goblins, by turns dopey and irritating and purely, spookily wicked, depicted with all their glorious warts and teeth by the late, great, illustrator Trina Schart Hyman.

  • The Flying Latke, by Arthur Yorinks; illustrated by William Steig, with photo illustrations by Arthur Yorinks and Paul Colin

Opinions vary on this farcical restaging of the Chanukah miracle, wherein one single latke feeds an entire extended family that’s holed up in their New Jersey home for eight days after a Hanukkah party gone wrong. Some people might find it too in-jokey, but my kid loves the Borscht-belt slapstick humor, and I get a big kick out of the illustrations: the author and illustrator rounded up a stellar cast of actors, authors, and children’s book luminaries and their kids (John Turturro and Maurice Sendak each make an appearance) to act out each scene, which were then photographed and superimposed on a painted background. The resulting tableaux emphasize the over-the-top schtick-y nature of the book, and make it a treat to pore over for details.

Sara has a dilemma common to Jewish kids: Christmas envy. When the mysterious Tante Miriam shows up at the family Chanukah party and gives each kid a gift, Sara’s annoyance deepens; her present is a weird, huge, golden dreydl. Except, well, it actually sends her spinning into another reality, one that includes King Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, a lost princess who needs rescuing, and the Demon King. Also, some highly satisfying riddles that my kid has been enjoying trying out on friends.
I can’t pretend to be unbiased about this new addition to the Chanukah canon: it’s by my cousin. But just as she’s more than accomplished enough not to need a plug from me, The Golden Dreydl had plenty going for it on its own to engage both reader and listener, even without the family connection, when I read it aloud to my daughter a few weeks ago. It was especially fun to find the “Nutcracker Suite” connections together (though I have to admit that the riddles were made even more enjoyable by my slowly dawning realization that most of them came from the stock of jokes my dad used to tell us).

These are just a few of my family’s favorite books about Chanukah (Or Hanukkah, or Hanukka…it’s always a challenge to figure out how it’s going to be spelled next). If you’re looking for more, there’s no shortage of resources: About.com, Kidsreads, Childrenslit.com, and the educational website Apples4theteacher.com all have extensive annotated lists of Chanukah titles for children. Scholastic’s own website has a nice list of Hanukkah picture books, as well as an article about December holidays which includes some excellent Hanukkah titles, as well as books about Christmas and Kwanzaa, and tips on discussing all three holidays with children.

6 comments:

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

My favorite title (as opposed to favorite book) about Hanukkah is There's No Such Thing as a Chanukah Bush, Sandy Goldstein. The name at the end of the title is what makes it.

bookbk said...

We had that book in my old library! It's an okay book, but, I agree, a great title.

Cloudscome said...

I love that Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. i don't get to read it much any more in the library because all the classroom teachers love it too.

Genevieve said...

The kiddo brought The Flying Latke home from the school library yesterday -- he wasn't supposed to get it for some rule-related reason, but they let him take it and he was so excited. He loved the book and wanted to know who all the actors were.

Grace Tiffany said...

Hello -- I'm just scanning the web to see who's reading my books. Hope you liked ARIEL. You mention your daughter's (or your) interest in her Jewish heritage. I just wanted to make you aware of my THE TURQUOISE RING, which deals substantially with that topic. Its heroine is a Sephardic woman in Toledo during the Inquisition. Perhaps you would like it. Take care & keep reading, Grace Tiffany

Anonymous said...

好秘书 中国呼吸网 肿瘤网 中国皮肤网 癌症康复网 工作总结 个人工作总结 班主任工作总结 年终工作总结 工作报告 政府报告 述职报告 述廉报告 考察报告 自查报告 情况报告 调研报告 调查报告 申请报告 辞职报告 实习报告 评估报告 工作汇报 思想汇报 汇报材料 情况通报 情况汇报 心得体会 学习心得 工作心得 培训心得 读后感 演讲稿 竞聘演讲 就职演讲 比赛演讲 征文演讲 节日演讲 演讲技巧 工作意见 活动策划 工作方案 整改方案 实施方案 企划文案 销售方案 培训方案 应急预案 规章制度 法律法规 事迹材料 先进事迹 个人事迹 申报材料 学习材料 考察材料 经验材料 交流材料 自我鉴定 模板范例 技巧经验 工作计划 民主生活会 入党志愿书 入党申请书 入团申请书 转正申请书 通知 毕业论文 合同