This year the feast of Hanukkah, a minor Jewish holiday, runs from Sunday, December 22 to Monday, December 30. This "Festival of Lights" celebrates the courage of the Maccabees, leading a revolt to reclaim their temple from Antiochus, the Seleucid Greek king who sought to impose idol worship, and the miracle of light rekindled at the Temple's rededication. The Maccabees relight the Temple menorah with one small vial of purified oil that should have lasted only a day, but miraculously burns for eight. Hanukkah, like Christmas, is an occasion for gift-giving and acts of generosity, particularly to the needy.
This section is a work in progress: here we consolidate our Hanukkah-related picture books that reinforce the virtues, and invite you to send us any of your favorite titles.
Oskar and the Eight Blessings. Richard and Tanya Simon. Illustrated by Mark Siegel. Roaring Book Press, 2015. (K-4) Generosity, Charity, Kindness Young Oskar has fled Germany during the Holocaust (1938) and arrives in New York City to live with an aunt he’s never met. Arriving on the seventh day of Chanukkah, cold and hungry, with only a photograph of his aunt and an address, Oskar finds the city enormous and his journey frightening. With the kindness of many strangers, the young boy walks the hundred blocks to his new home. A gorgeously illustrated, profoundly moving story of a boy's journey and NYC at its finest: a diverse people not afraid to extend kindness. Or as Oskar’s father says: “Even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings.” This book could be enjoyed by older children as well because the message is timeless and the drawings of New York are intricate.
The Chanukkah Guest. Eric A. Kimmel Illustrated by Giora Carmi. Holiday House, 1990. (K-2) Generosity Eric Kimmel’s humorous and charmingly illustrated tale of a nearly blind, elderly lady who lives in the forest and fixes potato latkes for the first night of Chanukkah, expecting the rabbi as her guest. In walks a bear instead, drawn from his slumber by the tantalizing aroma. She mistakes him for the rabbi, and a wonderful tale of hospitality and humor follows.
Emanuel and the Hanukkah Rescue.Heidi Smith Hyde. Illustrated by Jamel Akib Kar-Ben Publ. 2012 (K-3) Courage, Hanukkah Emanuel’s father is a merchant in New Bedford, Massachusetts in the eighteenth century. Afraid of the persecution that they experienced in Portugal, the Jewish families of the town do not light the Hanukkah candles. Discouraged that they are not really free, Emanuel stows away on a whaling ship so he will not be bound by fear as his family is. However, a massive storm overtakes the ship and it returns to port for repairs. The lighthouse cannot be seen through the storm. The ship is guided home by the lights of the menorahs, now lit by the families, who were inspired by Emanuel. Bold chalk pastel illustrations light up the book.
Miracle of Potato Latkes. Malka Penn Illustrated by Giora Carmi. Holiday, 1994. (K-4) Poor woman opens her home to those in need and finds her latkes multiply.
The Gift. Aliana Brodmann Simon and Schuster, 1993. (2-4) Generosity A young girl tries to figure out how to spend her Hanukkah geld, and comes to understand that the best gift is the gift she can give to others.
Moishe’s Miracle: A Hanukkah Story. Laura Krauss Melmed. Illustrated by David Slonim. Chronicle Books, 2005 (2-4) Generosity Moishe, a generous Jewish milkman living in a small village, is forever helping his neighbors. But his resentful wife insists his charity has left her without flour or money to make traditional potato latkes for Hanukkah. Moishe is literally sent packing to board with the cows, but he is rewarded for his efforts with a magical pan that makes latkes. He is also given a warning that he alone must use it. When his wife tries to use it, the hijinks begin…. Beautifully written, stunningly illustrated.
Festival of Lights: The Story of Hanukkah.Maida Silverman. Illustrated by Carolyn Ewing. Aladdin, 1999. (2-5) Courage, Hope This reverently told, colorfully illustrated text recounts the origins of this feast (Greek ruler Antiochus taking the Jewish temple, and the Maccabees reclaiming and rededicating it), how subsequent customs relate to the original feast, and what the customs are (ranging from the Dreidle game to lighting the Menorah.)
In the Month of Kislev: A Story for Hanukkah. Nina Jaffe. Illustrated by Louise August. Viking Child Books, 1992. (2-6) Impoverished Mendel the Peddler and his children, along with a wise rabbi teach their wealthy and not-very-generous neighbor the meaning of charity. Humorous and wise.
One Yellow Daffodil: A Hanukkah Story.Adler, David. Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich, 1995. (4-6) Hope Profoundly moving story of an elderly Jewish man, who survived the horrors of Auschwitz by clinging to the promise of one daffodil in the death camp. Later in New York, he rediscovers the meaning of hope through Hanukkah and a family who reaches out to him. Not appropriate before 4th grade.