Read, My Children, Read
Gleeful stories celebrate Hanukkah, and lively literary adventures and vivid illustrations become conduits to learning Yiddish and American culture and history. As always, Kar-Ben Publishing has the most titles, but there are a few surprises: a new stateside imprint that is releasing children’s books to “nurture the imagination” as well as a new publisher in the United Kingdom that is retelling Jewish tales.
A Dreidel in Time: A New Spin on an Old Tale By Marcia Berneger. Illustrated by Beatriz Castro (Kar-Ben Publishing, 88 pp. hardcover $17.99, paperback $8.99)
Devorah and Benjamin get an unusual Hanukkah gift from their grandparents. It is a magic dreidel that carries them back in time, from modern Los Angeles to ancient Modi’in. There they find themselves in the middle of a battle between the Maccabees and the Syrians. To their surprise, their knowledge of history—and knowing how important it is to find a flask of oil—is a tool that helps the Maccabees win the war. Black-and-white illustrations carry the story along and punctuate this chapter book. Ages 8 to 10.
Kugel for Hanukkah? By Gretchen M. Everin. Illustrated by Rebecca Ashdown (Kar-Ben Publishing, 32 pp. hardcover $17.95, paperback $7.99)
A clever grandma makes a sweet holiday kugel for her granddaughter. A recipe for the treat—with chocolate chips and cranberries—is included. Ages 4 to 9.
Noah and the Eight Trucks of Hanukkah By Nancy Rips. Illustrated by Marina Saumell (Pelican Publishing, 32 pp. $16.99)
Truck-loving Noah receives a different toy truck on each of the eight nights of Hanukkah and uses them to improvise a menorah to honor the brave Maccabees.
Ages 6 to 8.
The Hanukkah Fable of Little Dreidel and Silver Menorah By Sylvia A. Rouss. Illustrated by T.L. Derby (MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing, 32 pp. $15.99)
Sylvia A. Rouss of Sammy the Spider fame introduces us to a little wooden dreidel that nobody—including Jake or Becky–notices. He is brown, not sparkly or bright. His holiday companion, silver menora, shows dreidel a trick to change colors, and he turns red, then yellow then blue. But still no one seems to see him—until he returns to his old brown self: “See me spin so merrily. I’m so happy to be me!” Despite the dreidel’s initial disappointment, T.L. Derby’s art brings cheer to the story. Ages 5 to 12.
Goodnight Bubbala By Sheryl Haft. Illustrated by Jill Weber (Dial Books for Young Readers, 32 pp. $17.99) Latke recipe by Ina Garten
Sheryl Haft has written a warm and loving Yiddish take on Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon. Riotous art by Jill Weber envisions the entire mishpacha trooping into the bedroom to delight in a “shayna punim” and give “a kiss on the keppeleh.” There is dancing and yelling, singing and kvelling. noshing and kvetching—and especially on this Hanukkah night, there are a menorah and dreidel, latkes and gelt. After reading Goodnight Bubbala, you will remember the iconic book in a whole different way. There is a Yiddish-English glossary for Yiddish newbies. Ages 2 to 5.
The Sages of Chelm and the Moon By Shlomo Abas. Illustrated by Omer Hoffmann (Green Bean Books, 32 pp. $24.95)
This whimsical story relates how the wise fools of Chelm conspire to purchase a full moon to illuminate their village “each and every night of the year.” It is hard not to laugh at the antics of those who want a moon that “looked down on them and smiled.” Award-winning artist Omer Hoffmann’s illustrations are charming. Shlomo Abas’s story is among the first to be published by Green Bean Books, a new United Kingdom-based independent imprint. Ages 4 to 8.
A Scarf for Keiko By Ann Malaspina. Illustrated by Merrilee Liddiard (Kar-Ben Publishing, 32 pp. $7.99)
Sam, who is Jewish, and his classmates are knitting warm socks for soldiers like Sam’s brother, Mike, who are fighting the German and Japanese armies during World War II. Keiko, Sam’s Japanese-American classmate, is a talented knitter, but all the children ignore her. It is only when she and her family are forced by the government into an internment camp that Sam shows his support and friendship by knitting her a scarf. Ages 5 to 10.
Creation Colors By Ann D. Koffsky (Apple & Honey Press, 24 pp. $17.95)
Each day of creation is captured with beauty and grace, geometric shapes of “every shade and hue” depicting our world’s genesis through papercut artworks. Ages 2 to 5.
Raisins and Almonds: A Yiddish Lullaby By Susan Tarcov. Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez (Kar-Ben Publishing, 32 pp. hardcover 17.99, paperback $7.99)
Annie and her animal friends traipse through a wonderfully imagined world to a store run by a little white goat who dispenses raisins and almonds—the “Roshinkes mit Mandlen” of Russian-born poet-playwright Abraham Goldfaden’s beloved Yiddish lullaby. Ages 3 to 8.
The Golden Bell By Tamar Sachs. Illustrated by Yossi Abolafia (Kar-Ben Publishing, 24 pp. hardcover $17.99, paperback $7.99)
Itamar, the tailor’s son, searches unsuccessfully “under sun-kissed Jerusalem stones” for the small golden bell that fell off the hem of the High Priest’s ceremonial garment. Many years later, a modern-day archaeologist on a dig in Jerusalem finds a small golden bell. Readers can decide who the bell belongs to. Ages 3 to 8.
Sammy Spider’s First Wedding By Sylvia A. Rouss. Illustrated by Janus Kahn (Kar-Ben Publishing, 32 pp. hardcover $17.95, paperback $7.99)
Curious Sammy Spider, every Jewish child’s beloved arachnid, learns all about Jewish wedding rituals from his perch on a chuppah pole and happily escapes injury from the joyous shattering of a wine glass as the happy (and handsome, of course) couple is wed. Mazal Tov, Sammy. Ages. 4 to 9.
Signs in the Well By Shoham Smith. Illustrated by Vali Mintzi . Translated by Annette Appel (Green Bean Books, 32 pp. $22.95)
This dramatically illustrated book—its white on black etchings endowing the images and story with depth as well as artistry—tells the story of the great sage Akiva. A hard-working, compassionate shepherd, he had never gone to school and yearned to know how to read. At age 40, humiliated because he still could not read, he was encouraged to begin to learn the aleph bet. This is a fine, inspiring book about striving and reaching one’s goal. But perhaps Shoham Smith could create another that includes Rachel, the woman whom, the midrash says, sacrificed her fortune to marry Akiva and encourage him to become a great scholar in Israel. Ages 6 an up.
Gloria Goldreich’s newest novel is After Melanie.