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Happy (C)Han(n)uk(k)a(h)!

The Festival of Lights began last night, and I’ve got the latke lunch to prove it. Here are some recent Hanukkah-themed picture books to (let’s be honest) get smothered in applesauce. Reviews are from The Horn Book Magazine’s 2015 Holiday High Notes and from The Horn Book Guide Online. For more Horn Book Hanukkah recommendations, click on the tag hanukkah-books.

Books about Hanukkah for older kids are harder to come by, but as with most Jewish holidays, that reliable (and beloved) standby, Sydney Taylor’s All of a Kind Family series, comes through. Who could forget the family members divvying up the candle-lighting duties — six kids plus a Mama and a Papa works out perfectly for eight nights — in More All-of-a-Kind Family? Take our “Which All-of-a-Kind Family sibling are YOU?” quiz, then pick up the reissues (from Lizzie Skurnik Books) to get in an AoaKF-worthy festive spirit.

barash_is it hanukkah yetIs It Hanukkah Yet?
by Chris Barash; illus. by Alessandra Psacharopulo
Preschool     Whitman     32 pp.
10/15    978-0-8075-3384-0    $16.99

“When frosty winds blow and snow’s all around / And there’s no sign of green on the trees or the ground… / Hanukkah is on its way.” In a quiet text, two children eagerly await the holiday, first frolicking outdoors with forest animals, then playing inside. Anticipation builds as the trappings of Hanukkah appear — decorations, guests, a menorah, dreidels. Warm, soft-hued illustrations have an old-fashioned look.

newman_hanukkah is comingHanukkah Is Coming!
by Tracy Newman; illus. by Viviana Garofoli
Preschool     Kar-Ben     12 pp.
9/15     978-1-4677-5241-1    $17.99
e-book ed. 978-1-4677-8837-3

In this board book, yarmulke-wearing dad, pigtailed big sister, and strawberry-blonde mother and son — plus cheerful dog — light candles, fry latkes, sing songs, spin dreidels, and pretend to be Maccabees, all shown in warm digital-looking illustrations. The “Hanukkah is coming” refrain, coupled with simple, child-friendly rhymes, is reassuring, and effectively builds anticipation for the Festival of Lights.

peet_dear santa love rachel rosensteinDear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein
by Amanda Peet and Andrea Troyer; illus. by Christine Davenier
Primary   Doubleday   40 pp.
10/15     978-0-553-51061-4    $17.99
Library ed. 978-0-553-51062-1    $20.99
e-book ed. 978-0-553-51063-8

When Rachel Rosenstein’s pleas for twinkly lights and a tree go unheeded in her Jewish household, Rachel takes matters into her own hands. There’s humor in the text and in the lively, scribbly illustrations. But the authors don’t gloss over Rachel’s feelings — which can be common for anyone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, a notion that steers the text toward a happy, multi-culti ending.

simon_oskar and the eight blessingsOskar and the Eight Blessings
by Richard Simon and Tanya Simon; illus. by Mark Siegel
Primary, Intermediate     Roaring Brook     40 pp.
9/15     ISBN 978-1-59643-949-8    $17.99

In 1938, the last night of Hanukkah coincided with Christmas Eve, and for a young Jewish refugee, both holidays provided blessings. Following Kristallnacht, Oskar’s parents send him to New York with just his aunt’s name and address. The illustrations, an engaging blend of large and small panels, are paced to echo the starts and stops and blessings of Oskar’s (successful) journey.

singer_parakeet named dreidelThe Parakeet Named Dreidel
by Isaac Bashevis Singer; illus. by Suzanne Raphael Berkson
Primary, Intermediate     Farrar     32 pp.
9/15     ISBN 978-0-374-30094-4    $17.99

New ed., 1980. In this short story (from The Power of Light: Eight Stories for Hanukkah, rev. 2/81) repackaged as a picture book, a mysterious Yiddish-speaking parakeet flies to a Jewish family’s window on Hanukkah and promptly earns the name Dreidel. This feels like a story a reminiscent zayde might share. Lots of golden light in the cheerful, loose-lined illustrations creates a sense of Hanukkah’s warmth.

For more recommended Hanukkah books, click on the tag hanukkah-books.

Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. She is a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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