J Is for Janucá

Lil’ Libros. Sept. 2022. 32p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781948066426. BL.
PreS-Gr 1–A much-needed, bilingual primer on Hanukkah/Janucá. Each letter primarily represents a featured item that begins with that letter in English and Spanish. In the cases where the English and Spanish words don’t start with the same letter, the Spanish version takes precedence. For example, in “C is for Celebración/Celebration,” the letter stands for the word in both languages. However, in “E is for Estrella de David/Star of David,” the letter takes its cue from the Spanish. There are times when the connection between the object and its assigned letter is a bit of a stretch, such as “Ñ is for año” and “RR is for Tierra.” At the end, “W is for Wisdom,” disrupts the already established pattern, but those missteps won’t deter young readers. Commonly known holiday-related Yiddish words, like gimel and kugle, are present, but so is Sufganiyot, a term that some non-Jewish readers will be encountering for the first time. The colorful, design-heavy art by debut picture book illustrator Gonzales is bright and welcoming. The cheerful pinks, oranges, and teals not usually associated with Hanukkah books make this primer stand out among the usual fare. The same families are featured throughout. Two couples with one child each prepare the feast, light the candles, receive gifts, and play dreidel. They have dark hair and tan skin, hinting at their possible Latinx-Jewish identity, not often represented in children’s books. Sometimes the examples are repetitive; gifts and food are mentioned many times, but the intended audience won’t mind. A straightforward account of the origins of the holiday appends the main text, giving readers a full picture of the historical (and miraculous) event.
VERDICT This charming abecedarian on the Festival of Lights fills a gap in Spanish/English bilingual collections.

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