The Mexican Dreidel

Kar-Ben. Oct. 2023. 24p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781728449289; pap. $8.99. ISBN 9781728449296.
PreS-Gr 2–This Mexican Janucá (Hanukkah) book, imbued with magical realism, tells a sweet story while introducing Mexican Jewish and non-Jewish holiday traditions, as well as Spanish words. Danelito is visiting Bobe (his grandmother) for Janucá, but he doesn’t know any of the neighborhood kids and has no trompo (spinning top). Bobe provides him with a dreidel, and he spins with the other children. The trompos fall, but his dreidel keeps spinning, and when it touches the fallen trompos, they straighten and follow it. The children follow the runaway tops until one of them, hearing Danielito’s distress, offers to help catch the dreidel. The tops slow and finally fall, and Danelito invites his new friends to celebrate the first night of Janucá with him. The text is concise without feeling stilted and includes Spanish terms organically within the story. The magical realism fits naturally. The art has the feel of being painted on wood, with visible brush strokes. Most of the children have brown skin and dark hair; Danielito is slightly paler, with medium brown hair. The town has cobblestone streets and brightly painted, flat-topped, stucco buildings all attached to one another. Children have large eyes, brightly colored clothes, and simple noses and mouths. An author’s note tells the story of Hanukkah, as well as the history of Jews in Mexico.
VERDICT This lovely friendship story does an excellent job portraying a lesser-known Jewish community and their traditions. An excellent choice for libraries wanting to expand their Hanukkah collections.

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