8 Picture Books For 8 Days and Nights | Hanukkah Roundup

These eight picture books and board books will help the youngest readers get into the holiday spirit.

Hanukkah, which is also known as the Festival of Lights, lasts eight days and nights. These eight picture books and board books will help the youngest readers get into the holiday spirit.

Gershman, Jo & Bob Strauss. A Wild, Wild Hanukkah. illus. by Jo Gershman. 32p. Kar-Ben. Oct. 2023. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781728460260; pap. $8.99. ISBN 9781728460338.
PreS-K–This eccentric rhyming Hanukkah counting story is complemented by arresting art. On the first night of Hanukkah, after a soothing rhyming intro, a polar bear “invites himself inside” a boy’s house. On the second night, two crocs arrive peeling onions, then three tigers with potatoes, and so on, up to eight “punk-rock penguins.” All of the arriving animals are involved in latke making or another tradition. At the end, the family reads the story, the candles burn down, and Hanukkah ends. The text scans nicely and uses alliterative adjectives for each set of animals. The art is really the star here, however: animals and people are mostly depicted with photorealism, and it has the feel of watercolor and mixed media. While the animals look realistic, their actions are more human, with tigers on their hind feet taking dishes from the pantry and owls frying latkes in a pan. Some of the animals sport hats, or sunglasses, or scarves, yet they still have the aspect and feel of wild creatures. The full-bleed spreads are packed with movement, from stampeding rhinos to penguins who seem to be jumping off the page. A brief author’s note explains the holiday. This unusual book reads aloud smoothly and quickly, and the fantastical art is striking. VERDICT A pleasant addition for libraries in search of unusual Hanukkah stories.–Amy Lilien-Harper

Kimmel, Eric A. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins: Gift Edition. illus. by Trina Schart Hyman. Holiday House. Oct. 2022. 32p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780823452552.
K-Gr 4–For more than 30 years, this clever story of a folk hero outwitting dreadful goblins has been a staple of Hanukkah celebrations. In a haunting tale with a warm heart, Hershel of Ostropol arrives at a village on the first night of Hanukkah but finds the villagers too afraid to light a single candle! VERDICT A welcome reissue that lights up holiday nights as few other books can.–Kimberly Olson Fakih  

Kimmelman, Leslie. Eight Nights of Lights: A Celebration of Hanukkah. illus. by Hilli Kushner. HarperCollins. Sept. 2023. 72p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063242487.
PreS-Gr 2–This interactive menorah and storybook set includes nine stapled eight-page paperback booklets (1 ½ x 6 inches) depicting a young girl celebrating Hanukkah with her family and friends. On the first night, Lena cleans and polishes her menorah with the help of her cat Pickles. On the second night, she teaches her neighbor Jules, a dark-skinned boy, how to play dreidel. On night number three, Lena and her cousins act out the story of the Maccabees. On the fourth night, Lena and her parents discuss how “one small person can make a big difference,” and on the fifth night they deliver toys, books, and socks to the children’s hospital, donate money to a hurricane relief fund, and volunteer at the animal shelter. A Hanukkah cook-off with potato and Cuban-inspired plantain pancakes and a hike to see all of the lights in the neighborhood fill nights six and seven. And on the eighth night, Lena attends a festive party at her synagogue with games, crafts, jelly doughnuts, singing, and dancing. Children will enjoy removing each candle from the menorah and flipping it over to “light” it. VERDICT Not ideal for library circulation. However, this fun, informative, and educational offering is perfect for story hours built around the holiday.–Rachel Kamin

Marshall, Linda Elovitz & Ilan Stavans. The Mexican Dreidel. illus. by Maria Mola. 24p. Kar-Ben. Oct. 2023. 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.–Amy Lilien-Harper

Sayres, Brianna Caplan. Where Do Diggers Celebrate Hanukkah? illus. by Christian Slade. 22p. (Where Do...Series). Random. Sept. 2023. Board $8.99. ISBN 9780593646700.
PreS-K–The diggers and the rest of their friends are back, this time to celebrate Hanukkah. Each spread asks, in four lines of rhyming text, where a different vehicle celebrates Hanukkah, then replies with an answer in question form. “Where do diggers celebrate Hanukkah after digging rocks and soil? Does mom dig up the ancient jar that held the precious oil?” The text continues in this vein, mentioning all the salient Hanukkah traditions, including menorahs, dreidels, gelt, latkes, presents, and the story. It ends with all the trucks celebrating. On the final page, a child sleeps with the toy trucks in a bin. Oddly, on some pages the first line is truncated and skips the word, “Hanukkah,” which makes the flow and repetition awkward. The personified, google-eyed, brightly colored trucks inhabit the full-bleed spreads and provide interest and color. Backgrounds are engaging, and a little mouse, some cats, and a dog show up on several spreads. VERDICT This does not explain the holiday, but will delight vehicle fans. Buy where the series is popular or more simple Hanukkah books are needed for the truck-loving set.–Amy Lilien-Harper

Silberberg, Alan. Latke’s First Hanukkahillus. by Alan Silberberg. 16p. Viking. Oct. 2023. Board $7.99. ISBN 9780593623169.
Toddler-PreS–Silberberg’s latkes return in this simple Hanukkah counting book that will work best for families already familiar with the holiday. The text consists of one sentence per spread. Each sentence mentions a night of Hanukkah, depicting the lit menorah as well as the corresponding number of whatever is being mentioned, all personified: one Latke, two toppings, three dreidels, four sufganiyot, and so on. “On the 1st night of Hanukkah, Latke lights the menorah.” “On the 3rd night of Hanukkah, the dreidels drop by, dizzy.” The final spread has all the personified items depicted, with nothing corresponding to the number eight, other than the lit candles. There is no explanation of the significance of any of the items, making it completely obscure to those unfamiliar with the holiday. Illustrations are brightly colored and cartoon-style; backgrounds are done in bright, saturated colors, and the characters are all depicted with heavy outlines, huge round-pupil eyes, and sticklike lines for arms and legs. The menorah is filled with bright, candy-colored candles topped with glowing flames. Jewish schools and libraries, as well as public libraries with large Jewish clientele, will find this a pleasant enough addition for their youngest patrons. It won’t make sense to the uninitiated. VERDICT Buy where Silberberg’s other titles are popular or Hanukkah board books are in high demand. Others can pass.–Amy Lilien-Harper

Weissman, Elissa Brent. Hanukkah Upside Down. illus. by Omer Hoffmann. 40p. Abrams. Sept. 2023. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781419762963.
PreS-Gr 2–This clever offering tells the story of two cousins on opposite sides of the world celebrating Hanukkah together and apart. Noah lives in New York, his cousin Nora lives in New Zealand, and they love to argue about which of them is upside down. They decide to have a photo contest about which Hanukkah is better. The story follows them as they do parallel but opposite things, yet celebrate the nights of Hanukkah in similar ways. Finally, each receives a present from the other: a shirt with “World’s Best Cousin” printed upside down. The text and pictures weave together neatly. Using spot art, they each do something location appropriate (Noah has hot chocolate, Nora has hot chips), and then, integrated into the same spread, the same Hanukkah-related thing (eating sufganiyot). Appealing and accessible text is clear and deft, with nary a wasted word. The art is wonderful. Characters have shaggy hair and a Quentin Blake feel to them. The protagonists have light skin; Nora’s father’s has brown skin. Hoffmann fills the pages with movement, masterfully depicting the scenes with Noah and Nora doing the same thing by simply splitting pages in half so that they merge into each other, while using a cool palette for New York and a warm one for New Zealand. While the Hanukkah story is not explained, all the traditions are included. VERDICT Any library looking for Hanukkah books will want to add this unique international tale to their collection.– Amy Lilien-Harper

Wheeler, Lisa. Dino-Hanukkah. illus. by Barry Gott. 32p. (Dino-Holidays). Carolrhoda. Sept. 2023. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781728419213.
PreS-K–The dinosaurs are back, this time to celebrate Hanukkah! A variety of dinosaur species celebrate different aspects of the holiday through brief rhyming text. From making latkes, to lighting the menorah, to opening presents, to telling the story, to playing dreidel, it is all here. The brevity of the text necessitates leaving out the full Hanukkah story, but it is referenced, as is the oil’s lasting eight nights. At times the rhymes strain and the rhythm doesn’t always scan, but for the most part the text is readable. Digital full-bleed artwork is colorful and busy, with personified dinosaurs who wear no clothes but otherwise act like humans. The dinos are all brightly colored and a wide selection of species are included, making it likely that little ones will find their favorites. VERDICT While not outstanding, this will please fans of Wheeler’s other dinosaur books. Libraries will likely want to make space on their shelves for this additional offering.–Amy Lilien-Harper

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