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The Eating of Latkes: Hurray for Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah, y'all! The 8-day/8-night Jewish festival of lights begins this evening. My holiday reading recommendation is My First Chanukah, a sweet board book by Tomie dePaola. I like the card catalogue description, which I found on Amazon: "Describes the traditional celebration of Chanukah, including the lighting of candles on the menorah, the eating of latkes, and the spinning of the dreidl. On board pages." Latkes are potato pancakes, traditionally served on this holiday. Delicious!

If you have a favorite Hanukkah book, leave a comment, and I will add it to this post.

Update: The suggestions are rolling in. Bruce recommends Eric Kimmel's Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins and Steven Schnur's Tie Man's Miracle. MotherReader praises The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes, by Linda Glaser, which Elaine reviewed recently.

Elaine points out two other titles by Eric Kimmel, The Magic Dreidels and Zigazak! A Magical Hanukkah Night. She also has good things to say about In the Month of Kislev, by Nina Jaffe; Hanukkah Lights: Holiday Poetry, an easy reader compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins; Chanukah Lights Everywhere, by Michael J. Rosen; and a nonfiction selection, The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate, by Janice Cohn.

Thank you to blogging pals Bruce, MotherReader, and Elaine for your excellent contributions.

Also, don't miss a review of Deborah Heiligman's Celebrate Hanukkah (National Geographic Society, 2006), over at the new blog Pixie Stix Kids Pix. (Welcome to the kidlitosphere.)

Farm School's Becky cites the All-of-a-Kind Family books for their Jewish traditions, including Hanukkah, and her own family enjoys Hanukkah Lights, Hanukkah Nights, by Leslie Kimmelman, and Shira's Hanukkah Gift (a.k.a., Kugel Valley Klezmer Band), by Joan Betty Stuchner, too.  Gracias, Ms. Sharp, for your list.

On the third day of Hanukkah, a shout-out goes to Jennifer, for recommending Hanukkah, O Hannukah, by Susan L. Roth; Elijah's Angel: A Story for Chanukah and Christmas, by Michael J. Rosen; and There's No Such Thing as a Chanukah Bush, Sandy Goldstein, by Susan Sussman.

The fourth day brings some light from the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, where Julie considers a brand-new version of I Have a Little Dreidel.

On the fifth day, we rested. No, we didn't! Because there were more books to read, from Wendy's  Hanukkah bibliography at Notes from the Windowsill to  Heather's  recommendation of Eric Kimmel's Chanukkah Guest, at FeatherBee.

And, finally, Genevieve suggests Stephen Krensky's Hanukkah at Valley Forge. In the comments, Genevieve writes, "It tells the story of George Washington meeting with a Jewish/Polish soldier who was lighting a menorah, and discussing with him the parallels with the Revolution -- another battle against a tyrant, by an outnumbered group."


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Latkes. Yum. :).

Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate!

Hi, Susan. I'm committed to reviewing new holiday titles on our blog, but Eisha and I have been discussing (offline) how hard it is to find non-Christmas titles. Hanukkah and Kwanzaa titles, for instance, are usually just books describing the holiday. I'm waiting on the library to release my held copy of a new Hanukkah title, but that's about all I've seen this year that's new. I'm sure I'm looking in all the wrong places. Oh, and Liz at A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy did a recent post on a new series (non-fiction again) about holidays around the world that we plan to link to. Oh well. I do have DePaola's new 'Christmas Remembered,' and I'm looking forward to that read. I'm rambling, but I just wanted to say that. Thanks for the title.

I hear ya, Jules. Some of the "describing the holiday" books are so boring, aren't they? Imagine if such a large percentage of Halloween books went back to the Celtic Samhain holiday. Dull, dull, dull. As an adult I'm interested in that sort of thing (to a degree), but most kids could care less. That's why I was so happy a while ago to find George Ancona's "Pablo Remembers," about the Day of the Dead. Real kid, real family--and Ancona describes specific traditions for that family. Good book!

Pooja, one of the take-out places nearby makes an aloo paratha that they finish on the griddle, so the outside is kinda crunchy. Another delicious (and caloric) potato treat!

One of my favorites is Eric Kimmel's Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. Kimmel's a terrific storyteller.... and this one's a classic, I think.
Also, if you haven't seen Steve Schnur's The Tie Man's Miracle, you might take a look. It's a Hanukkah/Holocaust story... set in contemporary America... and very touching.
Hope the lights of the season--whether from a menorah or from your rooftop--brighten your celebration... and bring joy (and peace) to the new year.

I LOVE Latkes! I used to make them with my entire first grade class.
We had to leave the onions out of half the batter because some little people didn't like them, but mommies came in to help and we really enjoyed making and eating them at this time of year.

It was a time when all holidays were celebrated in our school and no one complained about the trees or the lights or the special foods we learned about.

So now that you have reminded me... I will go make some!

I love "The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes" by Linda Glaser because, as you've discussed above, it's not a rendition of the history of the holiday or of how it is celebrated. The girl and her family run out of potatoes for the latkes and borrow some from the neighbor next door. She is an older woman who is all alone, but won't accept the family's invitation to come to the Hanukkah celebration. With some crafty thinking on the girl's part, the older woman joins them for Hanukkah after all. It's a great book and the lack of the heavy religious tone makes an ideal one to share in the school or library setting - or one-on-one.

Another great Hanukkah story is The Magic Dreidels by Eric Kimmel. It's a retelling of the old tale of The Tablecloth, the Donkey, and the Stick with a Hanukkah setting. I used to read it to my students in December.
The book was published in 1996.

By the way, I posted a review of The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes at Blue Rose Girls earlier this week. It's a wonderful story.

Bruce is right about Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins being a classic. I bought three additional copies of the book when I became librarian at my school. Kids requested the book all through the school year.

I just remembered the title of another excellent Hanukkah book: In the Month of Kislev by Nina Jaffe. It is out of print now--but may be available in a public library. The book is a good one to read aloud in an elementary classroom. As best as I recall, it's a story about a rich merchant who wants a poor family to pay for stealing the scent of the potato latkes frying in his kitchen as they walk past his house. A wise rabbi must solve the problem.

There is also An I Can Read Book of Hanukkah poetry selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins entitled Hanukkah Lights: Holiday Poetry.

Oh, awesome, y'all! Thank you for the suggestions. I incorporated them into the post.

Gingerpixels, I made some latkes, too, but next time I won't use the ridged frying pan. Kinda hard to flip when they're stuck. But, still, they were great--just funny looking. Thanks for stopping by!


I have remembered a few more titles. The first two are picture books, which are still in print. One is entitled "Chanukah Lights Everywhere" by Michael Rosen. The other is an exciting tale by Eric Kimmel entitled "Zigazak! A Magical Hanukkah Night." I used to read it aloud in the library--and kids loved it! In the story, little devils do their best to disrupt the Hanukkah celebration in the town of Brisk. Latkes go flying through the air, dreidels grow arms and legs, candles explode like fireworks. The wise rabbi takes care of everything and all turns out well in the end.

The third book is a nonfiction picture book for students in upper elementary grades. It's called "The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate." It's a true story that takes place in 1993 in Billings, Montana. It shows how a community can band together to help protect an minority from hate crimes. It's the kind of story we can all learn from.



We're having our latkes tonight :)

I always like the "All-of-a-Kind Family" series for the descriptions of the holidays, so we pull them out throughout the year to read about the family's Hannukah, Purim, etc. celebrations.

We have an easy reader here called "Hannukah Lights, Hannukah Nights" by Leslie Kimmelman, and the picture book "Shira's Hannukah Gift" by Joan Betty Stuchner (though I much prefer its original title, The Kugel Valley Klezmer Band!), which the kids enjoy.

Kugel Valley Klezmer Band is a great title. Wonder why they changed it.

Thanks for the books!

Susan, I like Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah by Susan Roth. It's basically the song in picture book format, but the illustrations (a family of mice) are very cute.

I also like Elijah's Angel by Michael Rosen and There's No Such Thing as a Chanukah Bush, Sandy Goldstein by Susan Sussman.

Many thanks for the kind Chanukah wishes but, man alive, my latkes suck. I used a box mix that'd been sitting on my shelves forever and made the cross-country move with us this summer. Bad idea. Oy.

Many thanks for all the suggestions on holiday titles. They sound terrific. I think Seth's preschool has a few on hand, at least some of the titles sound familiar.

Hey, I'll be in Norwalk again after Christmas if you're up for another lunch.

Merry/Happy Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa to all.

Susan, I've reviewed a great, new Hanukkah title today on our site (and included a link to this most informative post)!

It's here.

Anne, lunch would be awesome! I will email you. Happy Hanukkah.

Oh, good, Jules. I'll add you in. Thank you. You definitely need to try some latkes. They're great. An Alabama friend thinks they taste like hush puppies...


I put up a post at Blue Rose Girls with a link to "The Eating of Latkes: Hurray for Hanukkah."

Check out The Planet Esme for her "Come Light the Menorah" post. She's got some fine suggestions for Hanukkah books.


Thanks mucho for the link. It would be fun to do a group post for Chinese New Year, too, in February. I love holidays and holiday books.

I have an annotated bibliography of Chanukah titles at http://www.windowsill.net/jbooksc.html

I just reviewed my favorite children's Hanukkah book on my blog. It's The Chanukkah Guest, by Eric Kimmel. It's a lovely fiction picture book that also imparts some of the traditions of Hanukkah. I'm not sure how to make a link clickable here in the comments...


I have been sick but will probably post tomorrow about one of my favorite Hanukkah books "There's no Such Thing as a Hanukkah Bush Sandy Goldstein!" When I do... I will send the review over.

Oh, good, Kelly!

I had no idea that I would get so many great suggestions!

I'm going to have to bookmark this post for next year. My Chanukah shopping for this year's already done, alas. Thanks for starting this very cool thread, Susan.

Anne, you're welcome. I got lots of great ideas. Next year I'll re-run it!

Another good one, especially for history fans, is Hanukkah at Valley Forge. It tells the story of George Washington meeting with a Jewish/Polish soldier who was lighting a menorah, and discussing with him the parallels with the Revolution -- another battle against a tyrant, by an outnumbered group.

Great! Thank you, Genevieve.

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