Celebrate Hanukkah with These Books and Activity

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About the Holiday

Celebrate the history, meaning, and fun of Hanukkah with your family and these books that are funny, moving, and full of kindness. Click on the title to be taken to the full review of each book. There’s a printable word search puzzle to enjoy too!

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Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster

Written by Jane Sutton | Illustrated by Andy Rowland

Jane Sutton brings humor and meaning to her Hanukkah story that reveals the true nature of the holiday and friendship. With clever gift choices and a sweet plot twist, Sutton’s Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster will have kids giggling and empathizing as Esther’s plans go awry. Her easy-going delivery invites kids along on Esther’s shopping trip and sets up the jokes and final swap in a natural and engaging way. Sutton’s inclusion of Esther’s and her friend’s honest reactions to the gifts encourages discussion of how to choose gifts, how to make up for mistakes, how to graciously accept gifts, and more topics surrounding gift-giving.

Andy Rowland’s purple gorilla Esther is sweetly expressive even as she is a bit oblivious to the needs of her friends and clearly disgruntled when her gifts don’t work out. Kids will love the brightly colored illustrations loaded with details appropriate to Esther’s world, especially the bowls, drawers, and hangers of bananas, banana cookbooks, banana-decorated table cloth and even a banana-shaped teapot in her kitchen. The Jungle Store is a riff on big-box stores with multiple departments where shoppers finding everything from fish for a pelican to a book of Antelope Recipes for a lion to Ele-Wellie boots for an elephant.

Esther’s nighttime neighborhood is likewise beautifully drawn with lush foliage; hanging lanterns; wood, bamboo, and stone homes; and even a waterfall. The window of each friend’s home frames a menorah.

With its humorous take on a common mishap and loveable characters, Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster is a book kids will enjoy no matter what the gift-giving occasion is!

Ages 4 – 7

Kar-Ben Publishing, 2013 | ISBN 978-0761390435

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Hanukkah Cookies with Sprinkles

Written by David A. Adler | Illustrated by Jeffery Ebbeler

David A. Adler’s touching story about a little girl who sees someone in need and generously provides help is a heartening story for Hanukkah and any time of year. Adler’s straightforward storytelling, told from Sara’s first-person point of view, invites young readers to look out the window with her and join her as she saves a cookie for the old man and goes on to provide more food and finally companionship to him. The fact that Mr. Berger is a member of Sara’s synagogue reminds readers that people in need of help of all kinds are part of our community, are part of us. Readers will be charmed by Mr. Berger’s circus past and will learn from him that the gifts we have to share with others do not always need to be monetary to have value.

Jeffery Ebbeler’s enchanting illustrations of the city, complete with an adorably narrow Sol’s Market, take readers into Sara’s world, where she sees examples of people in need and those who have plenty. Sara’s contemplations about Mr. Berger and his plight are shown as she considers the full bowl of fruit on her kitchen table, watches someone ask for two hot dogs at the corner cart, and decides to save her cookie at school while the other kids eat theirs and reach for seconds. These same kids, however, happily give up their snack the next day to fill Sara’s bag for Mr. Berger. Classroom scenes and the image of Sara showering her cookies with sprinkles are familiar for all children celebrating holidays at school and at home. The family’s joyful Hanukkah dinner is doubly fun as Mr. Berger performs tricks that even the cat tries to do.

A moving story for Hanukkah and for sharing the spirit of giving all through the year, Hanukkah Cookies with Sprinkles is a fantastic addition to all home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Apples & Honey Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1681155005

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Hanukkah Hamster

Written by Michelle Markel | Illustrated by André Ceolin

Immersed in the special yearning for family and togetherness the holidays bring, Michelle Markel’s touching story glows with kindness and empathy. The growing friendship between Edgar and Chickpea will tug at readers’ hearts just as it does for Edgar, who so hopes to keep the little hamster but also knows there may be someone in the city missing him. As the days pass, and Edgar, alone for Hanukkah, shares his traditions with the hamster, readers also become participants in the holiday. Children will be riveted to the increasing suspense, and the pitch-perfect solution is joyful and satisfying. Realistic dialogue and honestly portrayed emotions provides depth to this moving story.

From the tiny white lights lining main street to the first glimpse of the little hamster to Edgar’s cozy apartment with his menorah in the window, André Ceolin’s richly colored illustrations invite readers into Edgar’s life with his new friend, Chickpea. Chickpea is adorable as it nibbles on salad, poses for pictures, and curls up in its shredded paper bed. Images of Edgar lighting the menorah are luminous, and the Edgar and Chickpea’s smiles will spark happiness in readers’ hearts.

The portrayals of friendship, generosity, empathy, and family make Hanukkah Hamster a poignant story for all children to share not only at the holidays but all year around. The book would make a wonderful gift and much loved addition to home and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363995

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The Story of Hanukkah

Written by David A. Adler | Illustrated by Jill Weber

With his exceptional storytelling skills, David A. Adler reveals the history of Hanukkah to children. In simple, yet compelling sentences, Adler clearly depicts the faith of the Jews and the dangers they faced from Antiochus and his army. Children will marvel over the astounding defeat of Antiochus’s soldiers at the hands of the Maccabees and be filled with awe as the Temple is rebuilt and the small amount of oil sustains the flame in the ner tamid for eight days. Children unfamiliar with Hanukkah celebrations will discover the meanings behind the traditional foods, dreidel game, and lighting of the Menorah in clear language full of the pride and emotions Jewish families feel during the holiday.

In her bright acrylic paintings Jill Weber brings to life the story of the Jews and the Maccabees, allowing children to fully experience the environment and perils of the time period. Her patchwork fields tended by farmers and shepherds give way to the majesty of the Temple with its central altar and glowing eternal flame. Weber’s battle scenes are particularly effective in presenting the destruction, fear, and final victory experienced by the Jews. Readers will be cheered by the joy depicted in the faces of the people celebrating the restoration of the Temple and the excitement of families observing Hanukkah today.

A recipe for Latkes as well as instructions on how to play Dreidel follow the text

The Story of Hanukkah is a wonderful introduction to the holiday for children learning their own heritage or for children discovering the traditions of friends, family, and others.

Ages 5 – 8

Holiday House, 2012 | ISBN 978-0823425471 (Paperback) | ISBN 978-0823440320 (Board Book)

Hanukkah Activity

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Festival of Lights Word Search

Find 20 words related to Hanukkah celebrations in this printable Festival of Lights Word Search puzzle. Here’s the Solution.

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December 22 – Hanukkah Begins

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About the Holiday

Hanukkah is the eight-day Jewish wintertime “festival of lights” that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BCE. Special prayers, oil-based foods, and gifts are also part of this looked-forward to holiday. Today’s reviewed book reveals the history and traditions of Hanukkah. If you are celebrating Hanukkah this week—many wishes for a meaningful and enjoyable holiday!

The Story of Hanukkah

Written by David A. Adler | Illustrated by Jill Weber

 

The story of Hanukkah began many centuries ago when Israel was known as Judea and the Jews living there worked as farmers and shepherds. Holidays were spent at the beautiful Temple, where the gates were covered in gold and silver. and a light—the ner tamid—always burned. While the Jews did not rule their land, they lived in peace. “Then a Greek, Antiochus IV became king. He tore down the walls of Jerusalem. Thousands were killed. Anyone who lit Sabbath candles, studied Jewish law, or refused to bow to Greek idols was put to death.”

When Antiochus’s army came to the town of Modiin, “they demanded that Mattathias, an old priest, worship one of their gods.” He refused and with his five sons and other followers ran into the hills. The soldiers chased them, but were attacked by “brave Jews hiding behind large rocks and inside caves….” When Mattathias died his son Judah became the group’s leader. He was known as the Maccabee, or “the hammer,” and the people who fought with him were called Maccabees.

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Image copyright Jill Weber, courtesy of Holiday House Publishing

Antiochus did not give up easily. He sent his soldiers back on horses and even armored elephants. They carried swords and bows and arrows and were well-trained fighters. But despite the fact that there were 600 soldiers for every one Maccabee, the Maccabees defeated the mighty army. “Judah then led the Maccabees to Jerusalem. The Maccabees cried when they saw the Temple ruined and filled with garbage.” They went to work to restore the Temple to its former beauty.

Finally, the Temple was rebuilt and it came time to light the ner tamid. When the people looked for oil to fuel the light, however, all they found was a single jar with only enough oil to burn for one day. They lit the ner tamidm and although supplied with only a meager amount of oil, it burned for eight days—enough time for more oil to be prepared. “On the twenty-fifth day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, the Temple again became the ‘House of God.’”

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Image copyright Jill Weber, courtesy of Holiday House Publishing

Judah told his people that “every year on that date an eight-day holiday would begin.” The holiday would be called Hanukkah, meaning “dedication.” Today, Jews all over the world celebrate Hanukkah. Every night they light one more candle on the menorah. They sing special songs, eat latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), and exchange gifts. Children also enjoy playing a game with a four-sided top called a dreidel. On each side of the dreidel “is a different Hebrew letter—the first letters of the Hebrew sentence Nes gadol hayah sham, which means ‘A great miracle happened there.’” “Hanukkah celebrates one of the first fights for religious freedom.”

With his exceptional storytelling skills, David A. Adler reveals the history of Hanukkah to children. In simple, yet compelling sentences, Adler clearly depicts the faith of the Jews and the dangers they faced from Antiochus and his army. Children will marvel over the astounding defeat of Antiochus’s soldiers at the hands of the Maccabees and be filled with awe as the Temple is rebuilt and the small amount of oil sustains the flame in the ner tamid for eight days. Children unfamiliar with Hanukkah celebrations will discover the meanings behind the traditional foods, dreidel game, and lighting of the Menorah in clear language full of the pride and emotions Jewish families feel during the holiday.

In her bright acrylic paintings Jill Weber brings to life the story of the Jews and the Maccabees, allowing children to fully experience the environment and perils of the time period. Her patchwork fields tended by farmers and shepherds give way to the majesty of the Temple with its central altar and glowing eternal flame. Weber’s battle scenes are particularly effective in presenting the destruction, fear, and final victory experienced by the Jews. Readers will be cheered by the joy depicted in the faces of the people celebrating the restoration of the Temple and the excitement of families observing Hanukkah today.

A recipe for Latkes as well as instructions on how to play Dreidel follow the text

The Story of Hanukkah is a wonderful introduction to the holiday for children learning their own heritage or for children discovering the traditions of friends, family, and others.

Ages 5 – 8

Holiday House, 2012 | ISBN 978-0823425471 (Paperback) | ISBN 978-0823440320 (Board Book)

To view more of the many, many books by David A. Adler, visit his website!

Discover a gallery of book illustration and other design work by Jill Weber on her website!

Hanukkah Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-hanukkah-word-search

Festival of Lights Word Search

 

Find 20 words related to Hanukkah celebrations in this printable Festival of Lights Word Search puzzle. Here’s the Solution.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-story-of-hanukkah-cover

You can find The Story of Hanukkah at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

 

Picture Book Review