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Best Hanukkah Picture Books 2020!

 

FIVE CHILDREN’S BOOKS

FOR HANUKKAH 2020

-A ROUNDUP-

 

 

 

HappyLlamakkah coverHAPPY LLAMAKKAH!
Written by Laura Gehl
Illustrated by Lydia Nichols
(Abrams Appleseed; $14.99, Ages 3-5)

In the colorful picture book, Happy Llamakkah!, adorable llamas young and old gather together for the eight-day Jewish celebration. Each night a new candle is lit by the shamash (helper candle) as dreidels spin, latkes are fried and ribbons are tied. The story is told with few words and many sweet faces of the llama family who end each of the eight nights saying Happy Llamakkah! Children familiar with Hanukkah will enjoy seeing the candle lighting as it reminds them of their own special Hanukkah traditions with every page turn. And the words “Happy Llamakkah” replacing the traditional Happy Hanukkah wish just adds laughter and fun for young readers. I personally laughed each time I read those words. This rhyming picture book closes with an Author’s Note which explains in simple terms why Jewish people celebrate the miracle that happened long ago. Happy Llamakkah! beautifully tells the story of the menorah in the window; and I liked how the reader learns that it was only recently that Jewish families incorporated gifts as part of their Hanukkah festivities. Happy Hanukkah!
• Reviewed by Ronda Einbinder

 

NINTHNIGHTOFHANUKKAH cvrTHE NINTH NIGHT OF HANUKKAH
Written by Erica S. Perl
Illustrated by Shahar Kober
(Sterling Children’s Books; $16.95, Ages 3+)

In The Ninth Night of Hanukkah, Max and Rachel’s family move to a new apartment right before Hanukkah begins. So it’s frustrating when they can’t find the box that was packed with all the items they need for Hanukkah: the menorah, candles, Dad’s lucky latke pan, dreidels, gelt, and jelly donut recipe. So how can they celebrate Hanukkah? With help from their new neighbors and a bit of innovative, creative thinking, they try each night to celebrate, although as the refrain says, “It was nice . . . but it didn’t feel quite like Hanukkah.” But when Mom’s guitar is delivered the morning after the eighth night, the kids come up with a way to still celebrate the holiday and give back to all their new neighbors who helped them. . . and when the missing Hanukkah box turns up, it finally feels like Hanukkah. Charming cartoon illustrations add to the warmth of this holiday book about a diverse and multi-ethnic community coming together in friendship. • Reviewed by Freidele Galya Soban Biniashvili

 

TheEightKnightsofHanukkah cvrTHE EIGHT KNIGHTS OF HANUKKAH
Written by Leslie Kimmelman
Illustrated by Galia Bernstein
(Holiday House; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

I had a smile on my face throughout my first reading of this clever new take on Hanukkah and again the second time to write this review. Kimmelman’s wordplay in The Eight Knights of Hanukkah makes for a fun Round Table themed romp that delivers in the form of eight knights named Sir Alex, Sir Gabriel, Sir Henry, Sir Julian, Sir Rugelach (♥), and three females, Sir Isabella, Sir Lily, and Sir Margaret. There’s also Lady Sadie whose request to the knights prompts the adventure and premise of this story. “A dastardly dragon named Dreadful is roaming the countryside,” and its antics are disrupting preparations for the Hanukkah party she’s been planning. Their mission is to “fix things with some deeds of awesome kindness and stupendous bravery.”

And so they set out to achieve this goal. While Sir Isabella and Sir Rugelach journey to find Dreadful, the other six knights assist the citizens in whatever way they can. Knightly language adds to the enjoyment, “Hark!” exclaimed Sir Gabriel. “Methinks I hear a damsel in distress.” Whether peeling potatoes to help said damsel or making sufganiyot (donuts) at the bakery where a sign reads “Helpeth Wanted,” there’s no task too arduous for the team to tackle. But what about Dreadful? Alas, the disappointed dynamic duo of Sir Isabella and Sir Rugelach fear they’ve exhausted all hopes of reining in that dragon until a smoky surprise greets their eyes. With their mitzvahs completed, the noble knights can begin their Hanukkah merrymaking with Lady Sadie and all the guests knowing their actions have spread kindness through the realm. In addition to Bernstein’s expressive characters, humorous details, and great use of white space, don’t miss her endpapers map to get a lay of the land.
• Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

SimonandtheBear cvrSIMON AND THE BEAR: A Hanukkah Tale
Written by Eric A. Kimmel
Illustrated by Matthew Trueman
(Little Brown BYR; $12.99, Ages 4+)

First published in 2014, this paper-over-board reissue features a newly formated cover ideal for younger readers. Somehow I missed the original version and was happy to find that Kimmel’s Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale had me turning the pages in anticipation as it also warmed my heart.

When Simon sets sail to America from the old country just before Hanukkah, he departs with inspiring words (and a knapsack full of latkes, a menorah, candles, matches, brown bread, hard-boiled eggs, and herring) from his mother. “Wherever you are, Simon, don’t forget to celebrate Hanukkah and its miracles. Who knows? You may need a miracle on your long journey.” This foreshadowing lets readers know something will happen, but I never expected a Titanic-like episode where Simon’s boat sinks. Mensch that he is, he offers the last spot in a lifeboat to an older man and manages to find safety on an iceberg.

All alone but ever the optimist, Simon lights the candles as Hanukkah begins. As he plays dreidel, he also prays for a miracle. He is surprised and slightly scared when a polar bear appears. Simon offers it food in exchange for warmth and company. The passing days see the bear share his fish with Simon until the menorah’s flickering lights attract a rescue boat on the final night of Hanukkah. Arriving safely in New York, Simon meets the man he gave his lifeboat spot to. Now the Mayor of New York, this grateful man is intent on repaying Simon’s good deed making the final miracle happen, bringing Simon’s family to America. Kimmel’s crafted a fantastical and truly satisfying story through and through. In the character of Simon, he’s brought us a selfless main character readers will root for. Trueman’s jewel-toned colors and shtetl clothing design help ground the story in the early 1900s. The play with light always brings our eyes to focus on Simon over multiple iceberg scenes. Together the story and illustrations (I love the newspaper clippings about Simon’s survival) will make any reader a Hanukkah miracle believer.
• Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

TheHanukkahMagicofNateGadol cvr THE HANUKKAH MAGIC OF NATE GADOL
Written by Arthur A. Levine
Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
(Candlewick Press; $19.99, Ages 5-8)

The magic of Levine’s, The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol, begins with its glowing golden accented cover and is woven throughout this picture book embuing it with a feeling that it’s always been a Jewish folktale parents share every holiday. But it’s not! It’s a new story about a big-hearted Jewish spirit “whose magic can make things last exactly as long as they’re needed.” The tale was inspired by the author’s observations and emotions he experienced growing up as a Jew whose holiday and beautiful traditions were overlooked, overshadowed, and ultimately influenced by Christmas. Read the illuminating Author’s Note for more on this. Nate’s name is also significant in that it corresponds to the dreidel letters Nun and Gimmel, two of the four initials representing the Hebrew phrase “Nes Gadol Haya Sham,” meaning, “A great miracle happened there.“

I was willingly transported to an unnamed American city in the late 19th century where immigrants of all nationalities lived and worked. Nate soon finds himself drawn to the plight of the Glaser family, newly arrived Jewish immigrants from Europe who are penniless as Hanukkah approaches. Additionally, their neighbors’ baby girl is sick and the O’Malley family cannot afford the medicine needed. Whatever the Glasers had they shared with their close neighbors but when there was nothing, Nate knew “he couldn’t stretch what wasn’t there.” How could either family even begin to think about celebrating Hanukkah or Christmas under those circumstances? The have-nots need a miracle. During a serendipitous meeting Christmas Eve on a city rooftop with Santa Claus, Nate is told, “The sleigh magic is nearly empty. Are there a lot of people having trouble believing this year?” The winter of 1881 is a tough one indeed meaning one thing; Nate to the rescue! He helps out the “red-suited man” who returns the favor in kind. Nate’s magic delivers Christmas presents under the O’Malley tree and, much to the surprise and delight of the Glaser children, not just beloved Hanukkah chocolate which was all they usually hoped for, but a pile of presents as well.

Hawkes’s muted color palette enhances the illustrations of this bygone era. His larger than life depiction of Nate Gadol, with a tinge of gold in his hair and a sparkle in his eye convey a positive mood despite the harsh circumstances the two families face. The pairing of Hawkes’s atmospheric art with Levine’s thoughtful prose makes a new story like The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol already feel like it’s been a treasured read in our home for years.
• Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

Additional Recommended Hanukkah Books:

KaylaandKugelsHappyHanukkah cvrKAYLA AND KUGEL’S HAPPY HANUKKAH
Written and illustrated by Ann D. Koffsky
(Apples & Honey Press; $17.95, Ages 3-5)

The third book in this charming series.

 

 


A DREIDEL IN TIME
Written by Marcia Berneger

Illustrated by Beatriz Castro
(Kar-Ben; $8.99, Ages 7+)

Read Ronna’s review of this middle-grade paperback in L.A. Parent magazine below.

 

 

 

 

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A Giveaway Celebrating Candlewick’s Ten Books in Time Magazine’s Top 100

 

WIN FOUR FAB BOOKS!!

 

Picturebooks1-giveaway.jpg

If you’re a regular reader of our blog you’ll know we review a plethora of picture books published by Candlewick Press, a leading independent children’s book publisher based near Boston, Massachusetts. Obviously one of our faves, Candlewick Press consistently offers top quality books for the discerning reader. Their big news is that ten of their titles have been included in Time magazine’s TOP 100 YOUNG ADULT AND CHILDREN’S BOOKS OF ALL-TIME, a list honoring the all-time classics, both old and new. Here are the six books that have been chosen for older readers: Feed by M. T. Anderson; The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline; Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo; A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Jim Kay; The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness; and Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci.

But, there’s even more great news: We’re thrilled to be giving away four of their excellent books for younger readers to one lucky reader!

Read about the four picture books selected by TIME and then enter our Rafflecopter giveaway below.

Children’s/Picture Books:

I-Want-My-Hat-Back-cvr.jpg I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Told completely in dialogue, this delicious take on the classic repetitive tale plays out in sly illustrations laced with visual humor– and winks at the reader with a wry irreverence that will have kids of all ages thrilled to be in on the joke.

GRWR: This bears repeating: I LOVE THIS PICTURE BOOK and could read it again and again. The same is true for Klassen’s follow up, This is Not My Hat. Your kids will agree. Klassen’s sweet, naive bear is in search of his hat and can’t even see the truth when it’s staring at him straight in the face, while atop the head of the creature who stole it. The kindly, good mannered bear makes his way through the woods encountering a fox, a bunny, a turtle, a snake, a possum, a deer and a squirrel, always asking after his hat. “Have you seen my hat?”  The animals’ replies are varied, but straightforward and clever, and all in a font color matching their design. Of course the culprit’s remarks are by far the crowd pleaser,

“No. Why are you asking me.
I haven’t seen it.
I haven’t seen any hats anywhere.
I would not steal a hat.
Don’t ask me any more questions.

recalling Shakespeare’s “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” When at last the bear realizes where his hat is, readers will note upper case letters signaling his displeasure, and more hilarity and surprises ensue. This read-aloud delight will tickle the funny bone of generations of youngsters. – Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

$15.99 U.S./$18.00 CAN – ISBN: 9780763655983 (Ages 4-8)

* A Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book

Note:  I Want My Hat Back is in their Top 25 to be voted on for Best of the Best ranking by popular reader vote:  http://time.com/100-best-childrens-books/

JourneyJourney-cvr.jpg by Aaron Becker

Follow a girl on an elaborate flight of fancy in a wondrously illustrated, wordless picture book about self-determination — and unexpected friendship.

GRWR: Reviewer Hilary Taber said of Journey, “Pure imagination is Journey, a wordless picture book by Aaron Becker. Journeying through the world of this stunning picture book, the audience follows the adventure of a little girl who uses a red marker to literally draw herself from one world into another. Lonely and bored in her own home, the little girl retreats to her room where she uses a red marker to draw a secret, red door. This new world beyond the red door is filled with breathtaking landscapes.”

$15.99 U.S./$18.00 CAN – ISBN: 9780763660536 (Ages 4-8)

* A Caldecott Honor Book

Library LionLibrary-Lion-cvr.jpg by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Michelle Knudsen’s disarming story, illustrated by the matchless Kevin Hawkes in an expressive timeless style, will win over even the most ardent of rule keepers. An affectionate storybook tribute to that truly wonderful place: the library.

GRWR: Knudsen asked herself the question, what would happen if a lion walked into a library, and then ran with it! What’s so wonderful about this premise is that lion statues have always been the guardians of great library entrances I have known and they’re in front of the library in Library Lion, too. Hawkes’ warm, light colored, low key ’50s style artwork helps convey the supposed staid atmosphere of the library, but all that changes when a curious lion enters the scene. After he makes most of the visitors nervous, he ends up at story time and roars when it’s over. Youngsters will understand how he feels because who doesn’t love story time? But head librarian Miss Merriweather tells him, “If you cannot be quiet, you will have to leave.” As with many librarians, or children’s impression of them, it’s all about the rules. As long as the lion follows the rules, he’s welcome, in fact he becomes a regular and even makes himself quite useful. His tail dusts books while giving kids rides along the stacks of books. Miss Merriweather’s colleague, Mr. McBee, has more trouble accepting the lion’s presence in the library providing the tension in this very readable tale. When Miss Merriweather falls, it’s the lion whose ROAR alerts Mr. McBee to the accident saving the day. Sometimes, it’s clear, there’s “good reason to break the rules.” Notice the lion statues smiling before closing the book to contented little ones. – Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

$16.99 U.S./$20.00 CAN Hardcover – ISBN: 9780763622626

$6.99 U.S. /8.00 CAN Pbk – ISBN: 9780763637842

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt: Sound Book Bear-Hunt-Sound-cvr.jpgby Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Imagine the fun of going on a bear hunt-through tall, wavy grass (SWISHY SWISHY!); … and a swirling whirling snowstorm (HOOOO WOOOO!) – only to find a “real” bear waiting at the end of the trail! For brave hunters and bear lovers, a classic chant-aloud.

GRWR: It’s a beautiful day for a bear hunt. “We’re not scared.” Remember these three words because they get repeated over and over and their rhythm along with spot on sound effects make this one of the all time must-haves for any new parent’s home collection. Four kids, their dad, and the family’s faithful companion head out for some fresh air and a hike. They’ll traverse grass, a river, then mud, “Squelch Squerch! Squelch Squerch! Squelch Squerch! They go into a forest then emerge to see a snowstorm building and dark clouds blowing in. Kids’ll feel the frosty air as the mood begins to change. A cave is next. Oh, no! “We’ve got to go through it!”  What’s that? A bear?  A BEAR?  The group backtracks in record time and as they retrace their steps, they end up being followed by the bear all the way home. Parents and caregivers can quicken their pace when reading the last bit. Especially the part where the family leaves the front door open and goes back down to shut it, coming face to face with the bear looking through the glass until …. at last, everyone is safe upstairs under the covers!! Phew, that was close. My kids always wondered if maybe the bear gave the family such a big chase simply because he wanted some friends. Whatever conversation develops from a reading, all the better. That’s what makes this story a timeless adventure for the entire family. Plus, you can read it, and squelch and squerch to your heart’s content without ever having to worry about getting mud on a nice, clean floor.  – Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Sound Novelty Book: $19.99 – ISBN: 9780763677022 (Ages 3-7)

ABOUT CANDLEWICK PRESS
Candlewick Press is an independent, employee-owned publisher based in Somerville, Massachusetts. For over twenty years, Candlewick has published outstanding children’s books for readers of all ages, including books by award-winning authors and illustrators such as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Kate DiCamillo, M. T. Anderson, Jon Klassen, and Laura Amy Schlitz; the widely acclaimed Judy Moody, Mercy Watson, and ’Ology series; and favorites such as Guess How Much I Love You, Where’s Waldo?, and Maisy. Candlewick is part of the Walker Books Group, together with Walker Books UK in London and Walker Books Australia, based in Sydney and Auckland. Visit Candlewick online at www.candlewick.com.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Candlewick Biographies about Handel and Darwin

The two Candlewick Biographies below are reviewed by Dornel Cerro.

Handel-biography-cvr.jpg
Handel, Who Knew What He Liked by M. T. Anderson with illustrations by Kevin Hawkes, Candlewick Press, 2013.

Handel, Who Knew What He Liked, written by M. T. Anderson and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes,
(Candlewick Press 2013, $14.99, Ages 8-12)

One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin, written by Kathryn Lasky and illustrated by Matthew Trueman, (Candlewick Press 2014, $14.99, Ages 7-10)

Did you know that composer George Frederick Handel was once challenged to a duel? Or that scientist Charles Darwin’s childhood nickname was “Gas” because of the deliberate explosions he and his brother set off in their makeshift laboratory?

The two books reviewed here are part of the Candlewick Biographies series for children. Each examines “…a turning point or defining moment in the life of a famous person and how it led to significant contributions.”

Both men were born to fairly well-off families and had domineering (but well-intentioned) fathers who wanted their sons to pursue more affluent careers. Despite their fathers’ objections, both men realized success in their chosen professions.

When his father refused to pay for music lessons, Handel (‘who knew what he wanted”) smuggled a clavichord into the attic and taught himself how to play it. In England, he found the British didn’t like his Italian operas. So he wrote them in English. Throughout his life, Handel, when challenged by the naysayers, found a way to make everything work and still do “…what he wanted.”

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One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin by Kathryn Lasky with illustrations by Matthew Trueman, Candlewick Press, 2014.

Darwin’s father wanted him to be a doctor. All young Darwin wanted to do was explore the natural world and collect specimens. So he did not apply himself to what his father wanted him to study (medicine, and when that didn’t work out, theology), causing his father tp accuse his son of disgracing the family. A botany professor recommended Darwin for the position of naturalist aboard the HMS Beagle, and, despite his father’s objections, embarked on a five year journey that gave birth to his theory of evolution.

These short biographies are engagingly and humorously written by award-winning authors. Complex topics and terminology are clearly explained in accessible language. Colorful and vibrant illustrations convey each man’s world from the wealth and privilege of European aristocracy to the exoticness of the Galapagos Islands. Previously published as oversized biographies, the new smaller format is conducive to individual reading and research, although the lively language makes for a great read aloud. Added tools such as indexes and resources aid research and learning. Highly recommended for children 8-12 years old as wonderful introductions to biography and nonfiction.

Others in this series include biographies of Fred and Adele Astaire, Ella Fitzgerald, and John Muir and Phillis Wheatley.

Read Ronna Mandel’s review of A Voice of Her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet.

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