December 2 – Hanukkah Begins

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About the Holiday

Hanukkah is the eight-day Jewish “festival of lights” that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BCE. The lighting of the menorah is at the heart of the celebration. On the first night, the first of the eight candles is lit using the shamash, or attendant, candle. Each subsequent night another candle is lit until at the end of the eight days all the candles are lit. The menorah is displayed in the window of homes and synagogues. Special blessings, traditional songs, prayers, oil-based foods, fun games, and gifts are part of this much-anticipated holiday. 

Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster

Written by Jane Sutton | Illustrated by Andy Rowland

 

While enjoying a breakfast of Gorilla Flakes and bananas, Esther viewed her calendar. Time had crept up on her, and she realized with a shock that Hanukkah was only one day away and she hadn’t bought her friends any presents. She hurried out to the Jungle Store and hit the clothing department. There she found a pair of striped and a pair of argyle socks for her friend Sarah. “Then she spotted a bright red turtleneck. ‘I’ll surprise my friend Zack with this,’ she decided.”

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Image copyright Andrew Rowland, courtesy of Andrew Rowland

In the sports department Esther spied a jogging suit. It was even on sale—“marked down from $13.00 to only $12.99.” Esther quickly put it in her cart for her friend Josephine. She also discovered a make-your-own jungle gym that would be perfect for Hal, and it wouldn’t even take that long to build. “Just 10 minutes…or 10 days at the most!” the directions on the box said. “In the book department, Esther picked up a paperback called 100 Jokes About Elephants.” The jokes were so funny that she bought it for her pal Oscar. Back home, Esther wrapped her gifts.

The next night “Esther placed two candles in her menorah. She lit the shamash candle and said the special blessing. Then she lit the candle for the first night of Hanukkah and said the other two blessings. She remembered the story of the Maccabees and the little jug of oil that lasted eight days.” Soon it was time for her to deliver her presents.

She was happy to stop first at Sarah’s house. Esther was sure she would love the socks she had gotten her. But when the little monkey opened her gift she burst out laughing and said, “‘These socks are big enough for an elephant!’” but added that the gifts were not the most important part of Hanukkah. Sarah’s gift for Esther was Gorilla-Vanilla perfume, which was the perfect thing to make Esther smell nice.

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Image copyright Andrew Rowland, courtesy of Andrew Rowland

Next, Esther headed over to Zack’s house. When the zebra unwrapped the red sweater Esther had chosen for him, he frowned. “‘I never, ever wear red clothing,’” he said, citing “‘that terrible riddle.’” When Zack related the riddle, ending with “an embarrassed zebra,” Esther laughed and agreed that red was probably not the best clothing choice. Zebra’s gift to Esther was membership in the Coconut of the Month Club—a perfect, yummy gift. Esther was beginning to feel bad about the gifts she was giving

At Josephine’s house Esther learned that the jogging suit she had picked for her turtle friend missed the mark, while the princess costume Josephine gave her fulfilled her dream of dressing up like a human. A little later when Oscar the Elephant opened the joke book, he gently told Esther that he thought “the book was in very poor taste” and that “there should be a law against elephant jokes.” Poor “Esther wasn’t laughing anymore. In fact she felt more like crying. ‘I’m sorry I hurt your feelings,’ she said.” She felt even worse when she opened Oscar’s thoughtful cookbook 1001 Ways to Serve Bananas.

With one gift left to deliver, Esther was sure there would be something wrong with it too, and when she reached Hal’s house she discovered what that was. “‘Hyenas can’t climb jungle gyms like monkeys can,’” he told her as he handed her two tickets to The Gorilla Theater. As Esther trudged away, she felt miserable, but at home with a cup of tea she had an idea. She sat down and wrote out invitations for all of her friends to join her on the Eighth Night of Hanukkah. “‘Make sure to bring the gift I gave you!’” she added.

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Image copyright Andrew Rowland, courtesy of Andrew Rowland

When her friends arrived, they lit the shamash candle, said the blessings, and sat down to a delicious dinner. Afterward, Esther admitted, “‘I know that my gifts to you were a total disaster, but now you can trade!’” She looked at Sarah. “‘The two pairs of socks I bought you would fit an elephant,’ she said. Sarah smiled and handed the socks to Oscar. Hal’s jungle gym turned out to be just right for Sarah. Zack Zebra was thrilled to get Josephine’s jogging suit, and Hal laughed like the hyena he was at 100 Jokes About Elephants. And that red turtleneck was the exact thing for their turtle friend, Josephine.

After her friends left, Esther thought that her gifts had not been so bad. After all, they brought everyone together for a perfect Hanukkah celebration.

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

Discover more about Jane Sutton and her books as well as book-related activities on her website!

Become wrapped up in this swinging Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster book trailer!

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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You can find Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 30 – Passover

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About the Holiday

Passover is a Jewish spring festival that celebrates the Jews liberation from slavery in Egypt and their freedom of a nation under Moses. The holiday begins on the fourteenth day of the Hebrew month Nisan, which is the first ecclesiastical month and occurs in March or April and continues for seven or eight days. The holiday begins with a seder meal, for which family and friends gather to remember their history, have symbolic dishes, and celebrate the joy of freedom.

Kar-Ben Publishing sent me a copy of Paulie’s Passover Predicament to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also excited to be giving away one copy of the book! See details below.

Paulie’s Passover Predicament

Written by Jane Sutton | Illustrated by Barbara Vagnozzi

 

Paulie was a moos-ician who loved practicing his guitar in his basement studio, but today he had to cut it short because there was so much to do. Passover was starting that night, “and Paulie wanted his Passover seder to be perfect!” He headed to the grocery store to buy everything he needed for the meal. At the store he ran into two friends, Sally and Irving. They were excited about coming to Paulie’s house later that day.

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Image copyright Barbara Vagnozzi, 2018, text copyright Jane Sutton, 2018. Courtesy of Kar-Ben Publishing.

With his cart loaded with boxes of matzah, grape juice, two moose shaped candles, and other supplies, Paulie was ready. As soon as he got home, Paulie began cooking. Each dish was delicious. He set the table and “hummed happily as he placed the matzah cover over the matzah.” He smiled at the attractive picture of a moose printed on it. “‘Perfect!’ he thought.”

There was much excitement as Paulie’s friends arrived. They complimented Paulie on the yummy-smells from the kitchen and his decorated table. “‘The candles are very ‘you,’ Paulie, said Evelyn,” while Sally commented on the unusual matzah cover. When they sat down to eat, Moe noticed the extremely large egg on the seder plate. “‘Yes,’ said Paulie, beaming. ‘An egg is a sign of new life. I used an ostrich egg to make sure everyone could see it.’” Sally pointed out that the salt water representing the tears of their ancestors looked different too. As Paulie explained, he thought he heard a few giggles.

When Evelyn tasted the charoset that reminded them of the bricks and mortar their “ancestors used to build the pyramids,” she questioned the recipe. Paulie admitted that he liked it with apples and pinecones instead of walnuts. In place of the usual parsley, Paulie had used his “favorite green thing”: grass. This was met with some chuckles. Paulie had taken the horseradish maror rather literally and carved a horse from a radish. Hearing this, Horace couldn’t help but laugh out loud. And the lamb’s wool in place of the lamb bone set everyone else “roaring with laughter.”

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Image copyright Barbara Vagnozzi, 2018, text copyright Jane Sutton, 2018. Courtesy of Kar-Ben Publishing.

“Big tears formed in Paulie’s eyes,” but his friends hugged him and told him that although his seder plate was a bit different, each element reminded them “‘of the meaning of Passover—in a Paulie way.’” Cheered, Paulie and his friends continued with the blessings, the Four Questions, and telling the Passover story. They ate and recited the Ten Plagues. Then it was time for Sally to hide the afikomen.

Paulie felt better, but he really wanted to find the afikomen. He looked under the table and behind the couch then Paulie went to look in the basement. The afikomen wasn’t under his drum set or in the laundry basket. Paulie finally found it in the dryer, but when he tried to go upstairs, the door was locked! No one heard Paulie calling for help. He sat down on the stairs and considered his Passover seder. It “was not perfect at all…. And now he was stuck in the basement. ‘What a predicament!’ he thought.”

Just then he had an idea. He slipped the afikomen under the door, alerting his friends. They swung the door open, and Paulie was free! Paulie’s friends were excited to see that he had found the afikomen and would get the reward. But Paulie told them that being free like their ancestors was enough for him. Then everyone sang the song Dayeinu, happy to be together and free.

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Image copyright Barbara Vagnozzi, 2018, text copyright Jane Sutton, 2018. Courtesy of Kar-Ben Publishing.

A short description of Passover follows the story.

Young readers will empathize with and cheer for Paulie in Jane Sutton’s sweetly emotional Passover story. In his excitement to host the perfect Passover seder, Paulie can’t help but include his favorite things instead of the traditional offerings. Even though his friends chuckle at Paulie’s missteps, they show their love for him with understanding and hugs. When he is freed from the basement, Paulie demonstrates the true spirit of Passover in his happiness to be with his friends again. Kids will giggle along at each unique seder dish while they also learn their symbolic importance.

Barbara Vagnozzi’s bright, joyful lllustrations reflect the excitement children feel as they prepare for Passover—shopping, cooking, and setting the table with special foods and decorations. The camaraderie of the friends is infectious as they explain the various parts of the seder, enjoying Paulie’s unique, moose-centric spin on it. These good friends, smiling, talking, happily hunting for the afikomen, and singing together are adorable companions for this special holiday.

A fun and meaningful introduction to Passover for children and adults of all faiths, Paulie’s Passover Predicament would be a delightful addition to home and classroom bookshelves for any time of year.

Ages 3 – 8

Kar-Ben Publishing, 2018 | ISBN 978-1512420975

Discover more about Jane Sutton and her books on her website.

To learn more about Barbara Vagnozzi and view a portfolio of her books and artwork, visit her website.

It’s a Paulie’s Passover Predicament Giveaway!

I’m excited to partner with Kar-Ben Publishing in this giveaway of:

  • one copy of Paulie’s Passover Predicament!

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, March 30 – April 5. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on April 6.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Kar-Ben Publishing

Passover Activity

Celebrate Passover! Word Search

Celebrating Passover means honoring history, eating special foods, and having fun! Can you find the twenty words related to Passover in this Celebrate Passover! Word Search?

Celebrate Passover! Word Search Puzzle | Celebrate Passover! Word Search Solution

Picture Book Review