Spotlight on Hanukkah: Children’s Books

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Hanukkah: A Counting Book in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish by Emily Sper (Pre-K – 2)

This beautiful, brightly illustrated counting book can be found in a board book format for children as young as three to enjoy.  This is a trilingual counting book, which teaches children (and adults) to count from one to eight in three languages with simple transliterations to accompany the Hebrew text.  The colorful candle cutouts will keep children asking to hear this book read aloud many times.  The story of Hanukkah is told through concise and easy-to-understand text.

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My First Hanukkah Board Book by Clare Lister (Pre-K – Kindergarten)

Simple, brightly colored photographs accompany this accessible book covering the basics of Hanukkah.  The biblical story of Hanukkah is told in simple terms, but it may be a bit over the heads of Pre-K children, but there is enough to look at and some excellent vocabulary about Hanukkah to make this board book accessible to children as young as three years old.

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Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat by Naomi Howland (Kindergarten – 2)

This deliciously fun story of generosity, greed, and charity is a retelling of an old folktale.  Colorful illustrations and lively text make this a fun, holiday read aloud about a magical latke frying pan reminiscent of the story of the magic pot.  Set in a Russian Jewish family’s home, the mischievous boys remember the words to start the magical frying pan, but can’t remember how to make it stop.  This fun story comes with a recipe for latkes.

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Moishe’s Miracle: A Hanukkah Story by Laura Melmed (Kindergarten – 3)

A great companion to Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat, this is another retelling of the story of the magic pot that has been changed into a magical latke frying pan for this version.  The themes are greed and generosity.  This is a fun read aloud with colorful illustrations.

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Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric A. Kimmel (Kindergarten – 3)

The Yiddish folktale hero, Herschel of Ostropol is the hero of this classic and highly recommended children’s story in which Herschel must outwit a group of spooky goblins in order to make sure Hanukkah can be celebrated in a Jewish village.  The illustrations are beautiful although the drawings of the goblins may be a bit frightening for younger, sensitive children.  This story captures the essence of Hanukkah and celebrates the importance of light.  At the end of the story, there is an explanation of the history of Hanukkah, along with traditions, foods, and games frequently associated with Hanukkah.

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Maccabee! The Story of Hanukkah by Tilda Balsley (Kindergarten – 3)

This book tells the story of Hanukkah with brightly colored illustrations and clear text.  As is true with so many Jewish holiday stories, this book focuses on the underdogs defeating the larger, seemingly more powerful army.  Through rhyming text, this story repeats the refrain, “Sometimes it only takes a few, who know what’s right, and do it, too.”  The final two pages discuss the celebration and traditions associated with Hanukkah.

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The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story by Lemony Snicket (1 – 3)

Despite serious concerns about Lemony Snicket’s insensitivity and ignorance toward people of color, The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming is a hilarious addition to Hanukkah tales, and this book will be appreciated by children and adults alike.  Although it will best serve as a supplement to other informational texts about Hanukkah, this book will help non-Jewish children understand some basic information about the holiday.  This is a book that is also wonderful to read during years when Chanukah and Christmas occur at the same time.  Under all of its silliness this brief, but beautiful story emphasizes the wonderful message that in this world, there is a place for all of us with all of our differences and similarities.  This is a highly recommended read.

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The Chanukkah Guest by Eric A. Kimmel (Pre-K – 3)

The author of Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins, Eric A. Kimmel has also written a completely different kind of Channukah story, this one filled with humor and silliness.  A highly recommended book to read aloud, The Channukah Guest tells a tale of a nearly blind and deaf elderly woman, who makes the best latkes in town.  She is expecting her Rabbi for dinner, but when a bear wakes from hibernation and enters her home, the old woman mistakes the bear for the her Rabbi.

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Elijah’s Angel: A Story for Chanukah and Christmas by Michael J. Rosen (K – 2)

A story of a friendship between an African-American, Christian man and a white, Jewish boy, Elijah’s Angel serves as an excellent prompt to talk about how we all learn to navigate different cultures in a multicultural world.  Both Chanukah and Christmas traditions are discussed, and beautiful oil paintings illustrate a wonderful message of friendship with an appreciation for diversity.

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Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Hanukkah: With Light, Latkes, and Dreidels (National Geographic) by Deborah Heiligman (1 – 3)

Heiligman’s Holidays Around the World series are excellent resources for learning of all the different ways holidays are celebrated on a global scale.  The tone is all-inclusive, using a collective “we” to explain how children celebrate in many countries including Ghana, Uganda, India, Israel, Peru, the United States and Poland.  Unfortunately, this book, like the others in the series, is rather brief, but the photographs and text make this a highly recommended addition to any Hanukkah unit.

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