With just a couple of days remaining until the first Hanukkah candle is lit, are you still looking for a meaningful gift for a child?

Hanukkah Picture Books

With just a couple of days remaining until the first Hanukkah candle is lit, are you still looking for a meaningful gift? Consider one or more of these Hanukkah picture books. The first two were published within the last few months. The rest of the list is a cross section of the different types of books that are available. A Google or Amazon search will provide a more comprehensive selection. Quality picture books can make a positive impact on a child’s life.

2 New Picture Books Published in 2014

  • The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah is a memorable Hanukkah parable and an excellent picture book for the Jewish Festival of Lights. Martha Seif Simpson, a librarian and writer, skillfully places the emphasis of this heartwarming story toward the merits of altruistic behavior. Readers will gain a better understanding of the meaning associated with the Hebrew letters on a dreidel.
  • In The Night Before Hanukkah, Natasha Wing skillfully uses her popular “The Night Before” series to expose children from all backgrounds to Jewish family traditions. In order to accomplish this goal, she spent time consulting with Jews who candidly shared their experiences. Relying on these facts along with the help of her Jewish editor, Natasha was able to write a charming story that highlights a Jewish family as they celebrate each of the 8 nights of Hanukkah. The opening pages are general in context. However within a few pages, the focus shifts. Readers see the family’s traditions and celebrations through the eyes of the two young children.

For more information about these two books and these notable authors, please visit my blog.

Overview of Holiday

  • On Hanukkah This beautifully illustrated book provides an overview of Hanukkah as seen through the eyes of a young girl. The narrative includes a brief history as well as information on how the holiday is celebrated

Memorable Folk Tales By Award Winning author, Eric Kimmel

  • Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins Hershel comes to the rescue when a town is besieged by goblins who prevent them from celebrating Chanukah. While fighting off the goblins readers learn various things about Chanukah. Good overcomes evil when Hershel is able to outsmart the group of scary goblins.
  • The Magic Dreidels: A Hanukkah Story Story teller Kimmel retells the tale of “The Tablecloth, the Donkey and the Stick” in a Chanukah setting . A goblin outwits a trickster woman who is trying to take advantage of a young Jewish boy. Everyone benefits from the goblin’s goodness.
  • Hanukkah Bear. In this tale, a hungry bear is able to mislead an elderly woman, Bubba Brayna. When there is a knock at the door, she assumes that her invited guest, the local rabbi, has arrived. Instead, a lumbering bear takes part in her Chanukah celebrations. They light the menorah together, play dreidel, and eat many latkes. Bubba Brayna even ties a red scarf around the bear’s neck. Bubba Brayna realizes her mistake when neighbors stop by after the impostor leaves.

Lemony Snickett’s Reworking of the Ginger Bread Story

  • In The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story, Lemony Snickett uses the format of the Ginger Bread story. A latke scampers out of the kitchen and encounters several Christmas icons. The dialogue between the latke and symbols expresses the differences between the rituals and the importance that one’s identity be accepted.

Modern Stories

  • Hanukkah in Alaska. Barbara Brown uses the voice of a young girl to educate the reader about the day-to-day concerns of living in Alaska during the winter and different aspects of Hanukkah. An author’s note provides additional information about Alaska and Chanukah.
  • The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate In this intermediate level picture book, Janice Cohn focuses on the events that occurred in Billings Montana in 1993. Families of different backgrounds and faith united against anti-Semitic attacks. The book provides multiple avenues for discussing the importance of standing up for one’s beliefs.
  • Elijah’s Angel Michale J. Rosen focuses on a renowned African American Christian woodcutter and a young Jewish boy’s memorable relationship. This book can be a starting point for understanding the fundamental differences between Judaism and Christianity.
  • Papa’s Latkes Coping with the loss of a parent during a holiday time can be challenging for children. Michelle Edwards tenderly addresses the effect on two sisters who work together with their dad to celebrate their first Chanukah without their mom.

Holocaust and Chanukah

  • One Candle Award winning author, Eve Bunting weaves this story through the eyes of a child. Readers will learn about how Jews celebrate Chanukah as well as hear a retelling of how some Holocaust survivors cherished the celebration of Chanukah in Buchenwald. Passing the story from one generation to the next reaffirms the importance of following traditions.
  • Nine Spoons: A Chanukah Story Marci Stillerman skillfully illustrates how clinging to traditions and memories provided hope for many concentration camp survivors. Working together to gather nine spoons, allowed one woman the wherewithal to create a menorah made from the spoons. In an age appropriate way, the story illustrates some of the stark realities of life in the concentration camps and the importance of Jewish holidays.

Historical Fiction

  • Emanuel and the Hanukkah Rescue Heidi Smith Hyde takes readers back to life in 18th century. Jewish immigrants from Portugal were afraid to reveal their Jewish identity in America. The use of their menorah becomes a lifesaver.
  • Hanukkah at Valley Forge Stephen Krensky also provides a glimpse of Amercian Jewish history. The focus is the Revolutionary War. George Washington comes upon a soldier who is lighting Chanukah candles. The dialogue provides information about Chanukah and the significance of fighting for freedom.

Hanukkah Poetry

  • Hanukkah Lights: Holiday Poetry. This small collection of poetry is found in An I Can Read Book Level 2 book.
  • Hanukkah Haiku This is a very short book designed for preschoolers. However, it provides good examples of how haiku can describe simple aspects of Chanukah.

 Is your favorite Hanukkah picture book included on this list? If not, please consider sharing.

About Sandra Bornstein

Sandy Bornstein lived as an expat in India. Her award-winning memoir, May This Be the Best Year of Your Life, highlights what she learned as the only American teacher at an international Bangalore school. After living abroad, Sandy continues to explore the world and write about her travels. You can follow Sandy's adventures at www.sandrabornstein.com.

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