There are thousands of children’s books that are perfect for teaching the course, traditions and cuisine experienced during the holidays. Authors have been writing for decades about wreathes hung at Christmas time, hearts drawn for Valentine’s Day and eggs decorated during Easter in the hopes to inspire excitement and a deeper knowledge for the reasons why we gather together for these festivities. One holiday genre that possesses a sensational list of books is “The Festival of Lights” also known as “Hanukah”. Many of the stories include extraordinary images and written phrases that explore popular customs such as lighting menorahs, spinning dreidels, making potato latkes and most importantly, celebrating love with friends and family. Bookstores hold a wide array of authors who have accomplished this within their tales and here are three that I’ve found to be fantastic reads to honor the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.
The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes
The author, Linda Glaser, pens this witty children’s book about an entrapment plan of a girl named Rachel when she refuses to accept an elderly neighbor’s refusal to attend her family’s Hanukkah feast. Drawn with the intricate illustrating techniques of Nancy Cote, the plot thickens when Rachel’s mother runs out of potatoes for the holiday latkes, which gives life to a brilliant idea. The tenacious girl decides to visit the woman living next store and asks to borrow the vegetables for the mea hoping to coax the old woman by involving her in the cooking of the meal. Although the neighbor agrees to give the ingredient to Rachel, the girl must use her cleverness to convince her that she must celebrate “The Holiday of Lights” with her entire family. I loved this book because not only do you get a glimpse at the wonderful tradition of preparing potato latkes but you also are able to experience a smart and hilarious relationship between two unlikely but soon beloved neighbors.
The Trees of the Dancing Goats
Patricia Polacco has done it again within the heartwarming book, “The Trees of the Dancing Goats” which explains the selflessness of a young girl named Tricia who helps her neighbors in need during the holiday season. When the scarlet fever plagues the village, Tricia and her family are unable to enjoy their festivities knowing that everyone else cannot partake in their Christmas celebrations. Plagued with scarlet fever and unable to decorate their houses for Christmas, Tricia and her brother sacrifice their Hanukkah presents to decorate the homes of those families which have fallen sick. Since Tricia and her family are the only people not affected by the illness, they take it upon themselves to help those in need, thereby showing the true meaning of community.
Sammy Spider’s First Hanukkah
This is a sweet story geared towards young readers that captivates the beauty of color seen during the eight days of Hanukkah. Written by Sylvia Rouss, this is a remarkable tale about a spider that watches Josh Shapiro during a special eight day span where he lights the candles of the menorah and receives beautifully colored dreidels. Sad because he does not have a toy to spin, Sammy’s mother makes sure that he gets his own spun, webbed rainbow to celebrate Hanukah. Illustrated by Katherine Kahn, the author has provided a wonderful story explaining “The Festival of Lights” and has also written a multitude of other similar tales in celebration of Jewish holidays including “Sammy the Spider’s First Shabbat” and “Sammy the Spider’s First Passover”.
Suzie Canale, Big Red Chair, Chestnut Hill Mall
Suzie works in the children's department at the Westwood Public Library and has also written four children's books through her Beantown Tales.