Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday חי Notes

Every year in the November/December issue, the Horn Book Magazine presents Holiday High Notes, reviews of recommended new holiday books. The list usually consists of a majority of Christmas books, with a few Hanukkah titles and maybe a couple of Kwanzaa books thrown in.

This year, though, there are no Hanukkah books on that list at all -- not a one. And it’s not that the goyem at the Magazine have it in for the chosen people; it just doesn’t seem like there are that many new Hanukkah books this year (or if there are, the publishers didn’t send them to us).

The few that we did receive either arrived too late for the Magazine or were too meh to be considered “high notes.” In Jackie’s Gift: A True Story of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Jackie Robinson, Sharon Robinson continues to mine her father’s legacy, this time presenting a heartwarming picture book about the barrier-breaking baseball player delivering a Christmas tree to his Jewish neighbors. Also new are Eight Winter Nights by Laura Krauss Melmed and The Hanukkah Trike by Michelle Edwards, both perfectly acceptable but neither destined to become a classic. The Kvetch Who Stole Hanukkah by Bill Berlin and Susan Isakoff Berlin also showed up; not to sound too Grinch-like, but the title is the funniest thing about it (though bubbes and zaydas may get some chuckles from the goings-on in Oyville). The most entertaining -- and baby-friendly, so you know which one will be coming home with me -- is Accord Publishing’s Hanukkah, a holographic “AniMotion” book that shows, as you flip the pages back and forth, a dreidel spinning, latkes flipping in a pan, etc. Fun to look, at but more fad-ish than Jewish.

I’m sure there are others out there this year. Anyone have any to recommend? What about perennial favorites? The Festival of Lights begins tonight. What books will be under your Hanukkah bush?

-- Elissa Gershowitz


  1. Hazel Rochman told me she was scandalized when she immigrated here and saw how much American Jews made of Hanukkah. My question: is there a Hanukkah equivalent to "Night Before Christmas," or A Christmas Carol or even The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, a non-Bibilical story or book that a family might read as a Hanukkah tradition? Is there anything anyone reads to put themselves in the Hanukkah spirit or is that just a goyische thing?

  2. Why must Hanukkah books be *about* Hanukkah?

    To toot my own horn here, my latest novel EXTRAORDINARY is that very rare thing -- a modern fantasy novel featuring a Jewish heroine. Consider it for the teen girls on your gift list.

  3. So let's celebrate some of the previously published Chanukah books, like Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brown's laugh out-loud THE LATKE WHO COULDN'T STOP SCREAMING (of course, I'll be thinking of that little latke as I'm frying 'em up tonight!). Others?

  4. Penina Levine Is a Potato Pancake by Rebecca O'Connell.
    Roaring Brook Press 2008

  5. Latkes are hot! Another new and notable non-Hanukkah fantasy with a Jewish heroine is Barry Deutsch's graphic novel HEREVILLE: HOW MIRKA GOT HER SWORD ("Yet another troll-fighting eleven-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl").

    Roger, our people do enjoy expressing ourselves in song -- "I Have a Little Dreidl" and "Oh, Hanukkah," not to mention Adam Sandler's various "Hanukkah Song" versions, come to mind as festive mood-setters. And of course there's the oral storytelling component of sharing the Hanukkah story. But book versions of those things? I dunno.

  6. My recent recommendations are all from previous years. Eight Winter Nights has beautiful illustrations, but it's hard to find an audience for it.

  7. Don't forget Eric Kimmel's Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins with fantastic illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman!