The Ninth Night of Hanukkah

Sterling. Sept. 2020. 40p. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781454940883.
PreS-Gr 2–Two white siblings create a new tradition for celebrating Hanukkah in this paean to helping and neighborliness. Moving into a new apartment on the first night of the Hanukkah, Rachel and Max’s family discovers that their box of holiday paraphernalia has not yet arrived. Without the menorah, dreidel, and lucky latke pan, the kids turn their energy to satisfying the holiday spirit with an assist from a new neighbor every night. They light a homemade menorah with borrowed birthday candles, enjoy shared french fries in place of latkes, and rustle up a ukulele for an impromptu sing-along. Traditionally, Hanukkah commemorates a military victory and the restoration of the temple, not a neighborly spirit, but a message of resourcefulness and inclusivity fits the secularized holiday just fine. Kober peoples the building with a diverse cast of uniformly accommodating neighbors (plus one inquisitive cat) and the warm brown palette conveys a cheerful hominess behind every door. After eight nights, the kids invent a “shamash night,” named for the candle that lights the rest of the menorah, to bring the building together and celebrate the help they received all holiday long. Some of the kids’ makeshift substitutions strain credulity (a hula hoop does not satisfy as a dreidel replacement) but Perl offers a sweetly communal experience that honors the cultural trappings, if not the history, of the holiday. Back matter includes an author’s note and ideas for readers to create their own shamash night.
VERDICT This cozy Hanukkah story reframes the holiday and encourages readers to bring in the whole community.

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