A Hanukka miracle

Eight new children's books for the holiday.

hanukka book 88 298 (photo credit: )
hanukka book 88 298
(photo credit: )
Eight Wild Nights Brian P. Cleary, illustrated by David Udovic Kar-Ben Publishing, 24 pages An initial read of Brian P. Cleary's children's book is quite a challenge. His tongue-twisting limericks are certainly not a parent's best friend, but with a little practice the fantastically illustrated 24-page story of a family's non-stop entertaining throughout the eight days of Hanukka definitely gets easier. In fact, by the second reading, Cleary's humor manages to shine through, even eliciting a little chuckle when the grandfather character in the book describes how when he was a boy, a single sheet of toilet paper miraculously lasted for eight days during Hanukka. "My dad told me, 'Sonny, we won't have the money For a week and a day to buy more,' But that small roll it lasted After eight days had passed it Could paper the whole corridor." While the subtle jokes are enough to entertain the reading adults, it is doubtful that a young child - the book is aimed at ages five-10 - will be able to follow Cleary's complex syntax and sentence structure. On the other hand, David Udovic's stunning drawings for the book are probably enough to keep the little ones' attention for the duration of Eight Wild Nights. - Ruth Eglash The Kids' Fun Book of Jewish Time By Emily Sper Jewish Lights 24 pages The design and presentation are enough to make any young reader curious about its contents. Well presented and uniquely illustrated, the book is less of a story but more of an information book on how the Jewish calendar was created, focusing on the creation of the days, weeks, months and year. The book is aimed primarily at three- to six-year-olds and while both my four-year-old and six-year-old sat for a while flicking through the colorful pop-up pages, the actual text could not hold their attention, much less teach them anything about the Jewish calendar. For this age group, perhaps Sper should have chosen a more user-friendly method to bring this information across, a story format instead of the encyclopedic approach. That being said, for Jewish children living in the Diaspora and trying to understand their religion, this book could provide them with an extremely useful resource. - Ruth Eglash Hanukkah at Valley Forge By Stephen Krensky, illustrated by Greg Harlin Dutton Juvenile 32 pages On a bitterly cold December night more than two centuries ago, Gen. George Washington happens on one of his soldiers lighting Hanukka candles. So begins the luminously illustrated tale based on a little-known, captivating piece of American history. In Krensky's page-turner, Washington is intrigued with the holiday of the "children of Abraham" and encourages the young soldier from Poland to tell him more about Hanukka. Krensky, the author of more than 100 children's books, retells the Hanukka story, going back and forth in time, revealing the parallels between the holiday story and the fight for independence. Harlin's illustrations will make the reader feel the cold of Valley Forge and imagine Washington's worries about the hardships facing his soldiers. The only warmth radiates from the light of the Hanukka candles. In a detailed author's note Krensky, a master storyteller who specializes in historical fiction, writes that historical records from December 1778 reveal that Washington learned about Hanukka from a Polish soldier at Valley Forge. - JTA The Miracle of Hanukkah By Seymour Chwast Blue Apple 28 pages In this captivating book, the Hanukka story is retold in a unique stepped-page format. Chwast, an award-winning graphic designer and illustrator, starts with small, illustrated cutouts and creates new images with each page that grow as the story progresses. The effect is dazzling and fun. The narrative, with the Maccabees' triumphant victory, is told in simple prose embellished with outlined illustrations that evoke the Temple era. - JTA I Have a Little Dreidel By Maxie Baum, illustrated by Julie Paschkis Cartwheel Books 32 pages Children will tap their feet along with the two rhyming stories in one based on the well-known, popular song of the same name. A young girl with braids proudly holds up her little dreidel, inviting young readers to celebrate Hanukka with her cousins, aunts and uncles. Plenty of latkes, dreidels, menora lighting, singing and dancing in this warmly illustrated story. Paschkis uses a paper-cut design, simple illustrations and a boldly colored palette to enliven the story. Easy-to-read verse is set apart at the bottom of each page surrounded by intricate blue-and-white designs of Jewish symbols. - JTA