December 22 – Hanukkah Begins


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.


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.’”


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


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.


You can find The Story of Hanukkah at these booksellers

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


Picture Book Review

January 14 – International Kite Day


About the Holiday

International Kite Day originated in India in the state of Gujarat to commemorate the last day of winter and the first day of summer as well as the coming harvest season. The kites represent the spirits of the gods who are awakened from their winter sleep. The people of Gujarat begin making kites months in advance to accommodate the numerous festivals and the millions of people from around the world who attend them.

Kite Day: a Bear and Mole Story

By Will Hillenbrand


Bear sensed a familiar aroma in the air. He pointed his nose toward the sky and took a big whiff. “He smiled and then shouted, ‘Kite day!’” He dashed home and announced the news to Mole, who was digging in his garden. While Mole researched in a stack of books, Bear gathered supplies. While “Bear measured and cut, Mole drew.” Then “they both constructed.”


Image copyright Will Hillenbrand, courtesy of Holiday House

With their beautiful yellow creation in hand, “they raced outside into the meadow.” Mole ran with the string while Bear threw the kite high above him. The breeze picked up the kite and sent it’s rainbow bowtie tail fluttering “Zoom. Zoom. Zoom.” The kite soared higher and higher—into a graying sky. “Then dark, heavy clouds rolled in. Rumble. Rumble. Rumble.”


Image copyright Will Hillenbrand, courtesy of Holiday House

Suddenly, a gust of wind snapped the kite string, and it spun “Away, away, away.” “‘Oh no!” screamed Mole and Bear” as the kite dove downward. The two ran as fast as they could to catch up with it. They came to a stop under a huge tree. Caught in the branches was their kite. “Splat. Splat, Splat. Rain pelted the broken kite.” Then Mole and Bear saw something amazing. “‘Look!’ cried Bear. ‘Oh,’ sighed Mole.” The kite was sheltering a nest of chicks! “‘Chirrup, chirrup, chirrup’” they cheaped. “‘Thank you!’ sang the mother bird.”


Image copyright Will Hillenbrand, courtesy of Holiday House

Will Hillenbrand’s sweet friends Bear and Mole never fail to bring a smile to young reader’s faces as they share both joyful and scary experiences together. Little ones will love the repeated words that invite them to read along, and active verbs—such as snatched, plunged, and pelted—provide lyrical and advanced vocabulary. Kite Day offers gentle suspense and a cheerful resolution that will enchant young readers. Hillenbrand’s adorable, expressive characters, vibrant colors, and lovely pastel backgrounds will fully engage kids during any story time.

Children would love to add Kite Day, along with the Hillenbrand’s three other Bear and Mole Stories, to their home bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 6

Holiday House, 2013 | ISBN 978-0823427581

Discover more about Will Hillenbrand and his books as well as book-related activities and a gallery of illustations on his website!

Fly with this Kite Day book trailer!

International Kite Day Activity


Cool Kite Decorating Page


Part of the fun of making your own kite is decorating it! Use this printable Cool Kite Page to create the perfect flier! Try colored pencils, markers, glitter, tissue paper, stickers, or other decorations to make it uniquely yours!

Picture Book Review