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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Hanukkah, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 39
1. Combining History and Holiday

Hanukkah At Valley Forge

By Stephen Krensky, illustrated by Greg Harlin

With the arrival of the celebration of Hanukkah, I wanted to revisit a special book I have spoken about before; Hanukkah at Valley Forge. In 2007 this book received The Sydney Taylor Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries given in recognition of picture books and also those for teens that authentically reflect the Jewish experience. Here, the book’s vivid watercolor illustrations coupled with Mr. Krensky’s fictionalized retelling of a historically researched anecdote come together for what I think is a powerful picture book.

Stephen Krensky’s book, Hanukkah at Valley Forge, combines history and holiday in an interesting way. The parallels of American and Jewish history intertwine on a bitterly cold winter evening at Valley Forge. Faced with increasing uncertainty and mounting odds, General George Washington meets a Polish immigrant observing the first night of Hanukkah with the lighting of the candles there amidst the fading hope of Washington’s ragtag colonial army.

Common themes of man’s need to hope in the face of increasing despair and the price of liberty’s cause, echo in the meeting of these two men at a pivotal point in our nation’s early history. Some historical accuracy was apparently discovered in the research of the book, and it is left to the reader to wonder if chance meetings sometimes turn the tides of men and war.

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2. Teaching Tolerance This Holiday Season

The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate

By Janice Cohn, D.S.W. illustrated by Bill Farnsworth

 

How do we teach children tolerance? As the holy days of Hanukkah and Christmas approach, held in reverence by the Jewish and Christian faiths, it seems an appropriate time to bring books to the attention of young readers that evoke the “reasons for the season” as the phrase goes.

Such a book is “The Christmas Menorah” by Janice Cohn, D.S.W., with lush, but realistic oil paintings by illustrator Bill Farnsworth.

Based on an actual series of events in Billings, Montana during the holiday season of 1993, it emphasizes the message to children that in order for hatred and intolerance to flourish, good men usually do nothing. But not so in Billings.

A small menorah with 8 candles to be lit for each of the nights of Hanukkah, glows in the bedroom window of Isaac Schnitzer. A rock flies through his window one night, shattering glass and knocking the menorah to the floor.

“Who did it?” and “Why would someone do this”?, questions Isaac. The police are called and Isaac hears his mom say to the police chief who is very concerned about the targeting of Jewish families in Billings, “We’re not taking down the Hanukkah decorations. Being Jewish is who we are – we’e not going to hide it.”

But that is just what Isaac admits to his mom in a very telling moment. The year before kids were bringing Christmas presents into school. Isaac brings in his Hanukkah gifts and at the last minute says, “Uh…I guess I sort of told them that they were Christmas presents.” Will Isaac continue to hide his faith with the menorah incident as a catalyst for his decision this year?

A classmate named Teresa Hanley and family discuss Isaac’s family at dinner and decide to DO something. I love the family discussion that ensues where each of the members and their feelings are taken into account as they reach a decision that involves some risk.

The Henley family display a picture of a menorah in THEIR window during Hanukkah. Neighbors follow suit and Billings’ windows are filled with pictures of menorahs!

How many times do we see dark deeds done under cover of night as people might be too timid or ashamed to do the same thing in the cold light of day. It takes a moment to destroy, but the creation of something of beauty and goodness like tolerance is a process that takes time.

As the menorah lights shone in Billings, begun by ONE family, just so the destructive force of a rock was thrown with one hand. But the community of Billings, lead by a single family’s commitment, said that intolerance for any faith would not stand in their town without some decent folk standing up for tolerance.

Oh, and by the way, Isaac learned a powerful lesson too. He brought his Hanukkah gifts to school that year and announced what they were. Hanukkah presents!!

This is a picture book based on true life events in 1993 that still resonate today in 2014. Our children need to know that darkness cannot extinguish light as long as a single candle burns. And they may just be the young people who can light it in the future.

 

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3. Hanukkah Books that are Actually for Jewish kids

Hanukkah's coming! And here begins my annual hunt for a Hanukkah book that's written for Jewish children. See, many, many Hanukkah books are actually written for non-Jews, to explain this crazy holiday. Jewish children don't need to be told what a menorah or latke is. They know. They want stories about crazy Hanukkah hijinks and there just aren't that many. (Also, you really don't need *that* many books about the miracle of the oil.) Here are a few of my favorites:

The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes by Linda Glaser, illustrated by Nancy Cote

As the Hanukkah party guest list keeps growing, Rachel's mom keeps sending her next door to borrow more latke ingredients, chairs, and other necessary items. Rachel keeps inviting Mrs. Greenberg to come to the party, but she just won't come! How can Rachel help spread the Hanukkah joy?

The Chanukkah Guest by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Giora Carmi

I love this hilarious tale about a Bubba who thinks she's inviting the rabbi in to eat her latkes, only to discover she's fed them all to a hungry bear! (Sadly out-of-print)

The Ugly Menorah written and illustrated by Marissa Moss

Rachel doesn't understand why her grandmother insists on using her ugly, old menorah. But then grandma tells her how, when she and Rachels recently-passed grandpa were first married, they didn't have money to buy a menorah and so grandpa made the old, ugly, one. (Also sadly out-of-print)

Biscuit's Hanukkah by Alissa Capucilli, illustrated by Pat Schories

Mostly because I get excited to find a series character who's obligatory holiday book is about Hanukkah, not Christmas.



Which ones would you add?





Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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4. Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale, by Eric Kimmel (ages 5-9) -- a wonderful new holiday story

My students and I love sharing our favorite holiday stories, and this week we read a new Hanukkah story that's sure to become a favorite. I especially enjoyed our discussion afterward -- this story is rich with feeling and meaning, perfect for reading together.
Simon and the Bear
A Hanukkah Tale
by Eric Kimmel
illustrated by Matthew Trueman
Disney-Hyperion, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 5-9
Young Simon is bound for America, with just his rucksack, a bit of food his mother packed, and a lot of determination--like many who have left their homes in search of work and opportunity. He's lucky, getting the last ticket on a ship leaving for America.
Simon "managed to get the very last ticket for a ship bound for America."
But Simon's luck ends quickly when his ship strikes an iceberg--ooh, just like the Titanic, many of my students said. After generously giving up his place in a lifeboat, Simon leaps onto the iceberg. When a giant polar bear approaches, Simon shares his food and makes a new friend. Is it a Hanukkah miracle that brings a friendly polar bear to Simon, or is it his caring, generous nature?
"He crept over to the bear and snuggled against her fur."
My students loved the way Eric Kimmel crafts this story. They shared many ideas about how Simon found the strength to endure this hardship. All of them noticed his courage, but they also noticed Simon's empathy, thinking about the man to whom he gave his place on the lifeboat. We talked about how Simon thought about what the polar bear might want, sharing his food with the bear--at school, we talk about this as listening with our ears, eyes and heart.

Eric Kimmel is one of my favorite authors--it would be fascinating to compare Simon to Hershel from Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, a classic holiday story I love to read with students. Is Hershel brave and compassionate in the same way as Simon? If you like peering into how authors come up with their stories, check out Eric Kimmel's blog post he wrote just as he submitted Simon and the Bear to his editor.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Disney-Hyperion. All illustrations are copyright ©Matthew Trueman, 2014, and shared with permission of the publisher. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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5. What would you do with a Dreidel that doesn’t Spin ?

It’s nearly Hanukkah time once again and do I have a most magical tale to share with you!

The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin by Martha Seif Simpson and illustrated by Durga Yael Bernhard is a precious tale which shares an important message of the heart.

dreidel

Two days before Hanukkah, a peddler goes to the toymakers shop and sells him a beautifully painted wooden dreidel. This particular dreidel comes just in time because the shop keeper had sold his last dreidel.

“Remember,” said the peddler. “That the miracle of Hanukkah cannot be bought. ”

In a strange series of events, two different children bought the dreidel and then returned it the next day insisting the dreidel didn’t spin. How does a dreidel not spin?

pages-4-5-from-The-Dreidel-that-Wouldnt-Spin

Each time the shop keeper refunded the customers money. He himself would try spinning the dreidel and it always spun perfectly with no problems.

Later that same afternoon, a man and a boy came to the shop looking in the windows. They were very poor wearing ill fitted and patch clothing. They had no money but the shopkeeper invited them in any way just to look around. The young boy was delighted in all that he saw and wanted nothing, just the joy of looking at everything.

pages-12-13-from-Dreidel

The shopkeeper was so touched that he gave the boy the beautiful dreidel that wouldn’t spin for the other children. The shopkeeper told him that the dreidel was broken but this very special boy could make it spin. The boy with the golden heart could spin the dreidel. As the dreidel spun and landed it left a special message but I’ve told you enough of the story now. I’ll leave that for you to discover on your own.

This book is magically written and the story masterfully told. Durga Yael Benhard’s illustrations are colorful and captivating bringing this tale of the heart to life.

Pssst: Would you like to WIN a copy of “Dreidel?” Starting tomorrow (12-10-14) I will be giving away a copy of this wonderful book along with other lovely Wisdom Tales Press titles! Remember, this giveaway won’t be live until Wednesday, but be sure and stop back to enter to WIN!

Wisdom Tale Press Giveaway

Something To Do

Though I’m not Jewish, I can share that our best friends are and we’ve celebrated Hanukkah with them for years and years. Hanukkah is December 16th-24th this year !!!

What is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is the Jewish holiday known as the Festival of Lights. Hanukkah lasts for eight nights, celebrating a miracle which happened a long time ago.

In 165 BC the Greek Emperor captured the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. A group of brave Jewish warriors known as the Maccabees recaptured the temple. As they were re-dedicating the Jewish Temple, they only had enough olive oil to light the sacred lamp, the menorah, for on day. This little bit of oil ended up lasting for eight days and nights. During Hanukkah a new candle is lit each night for eight nights.

Latkes Recipe

latkes

One of our favorite parts of the Hanukkah celebration is our friend Suzie’s Latke party. Latkes are potato pancakes. Here’s her fabulous recipe. Enjoy !!!

Ingredients

1 -1/2 pounds russet potatoes peeled
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons flour (or more)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
Directions

In a food processor grate the potatoes. Line a sieve with cheesecloth and transfer potatoes to the sieve. Set sieve over a bowl, twist cheesecloth into a pouch, squeezing out some moisture. Let mixture drain for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, pour off liquid from the bowl but leave the white potato starch that settles in the bottom of the bowl.

To that starch add shallots, eggs, flour, 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt and freshly ground pepper. Return drained potatoes to this mixture and toss to combine.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking pan with paper towels. When you are ready to eat, in a large skillet heat 1/4 inch of oil over medium high heat until hot. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of potato mixture and cook for 3 to 4 minutes a side; latkes should be golden and crisp on both sides. Eat right away or keep warm in oven. Serve with applesauce or sour cream or cottage cheese mixed with sour cream.

Dreidels and Chocolate

gelt-candy-coins1

One of the nights of Hanukkah we head over to the Roseman’s for dinner, and some serious dreidel spinning and geld ( chocolate gold coins) eating.

The dreidel is a four-sided top which has four distinct letters in Hebrew on each side. The object of the game is to spin the dreidel and collect coins or candy depending upon what letter appears after each spin.

Each side of your dreidel will need to have on it one of the following Hebrew letters;

נ (Nun)

ג (Gimel

ה (Hei)

ש (Shin)

 

You can make your own Dreidel here.

diy-dreidel

 

Here’s how to play

Each player starts with some gelt (or money, sweets or counters). Each player puts one coin into the pot in the centre. The players take it in turns to spin the dreidel, following the instructions of the letter which lands facing up.

נ = Nit (Nothing), play passes to next player.

ג = Gants (all), the player takes all of the pot.

ה = Half, the player takes half of the pot.

ש = Put, the player puts all of his coins into the pot.

Play can go either for a set amount of time or until one player has won all of the coins.

Make a Hand Print Menorah

It wouldn’t be the Festival of Lights without a Menorah. Here’s a great way to remember your little ones as they grow and celebrate at the same time. You can find it here.

Menorah

 

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The post What would you do with a Dreidel that doesn’t Spin ? appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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6. Holiday traditions from around the world

Here at Oxford University Press, we’re getting ready for the holiday season, and we were inspired by the new, twenty-first edition of the Atlas of the World to explore holiday traditions from around the world, including our 2014 Place of the Year, Scotland. Take a look at the map below to learn and see a little bit about the food, decorations, and other traditions of holiday celebrations taking place around the world at this time of year.

Image credit: Christmas lights on the tree in front of the Capitol Building, Washington, DC by Jonathan McIntosh. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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7. Holiday books to share with your children (ages 2 - 8)

Do you have any special holiday books that you read every year? Here are some of my favorites from this year. Some honor the spirit of giving, while others tell traditional religious stories from a child’s perspective. All celebrate the warmth, love and togetherness we feel during this time of year.

Who Built the Stable? A Nativity Poemby Ashley Bryan
Simon & Schuster / Atheneum, 2012
ages 4 – 8
Amazon or your local library
Award-winning artist Bryan combines colorful, vibrant illustrations in strong, bold strokes with a touching poem about the Nativity story from a child’s point of view. The rhyming text follows a young shepherd who builds a stable for his animals and then invites Mary and Joseph to stay on this fateful night.

Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mamaby Selina Alko
Random House / Knopf, 2012
ages 4 - 8
Google preview
Amazon or your local library
Many families will relate to the way Sadie’s family blends different holiday traditions. They scatter Hanukkah gelt underneath the Christmas tree and hang candy canes from the menorah on the mantelpiece, focusing on the joy of spending time together.

The Christmas Quiet Bookby Deborah Underwood
illustrated by Renata Liwska
Houghton Mifflin, 2012
ages 2 - 6
Google preview
Amazon or your local library
San Francisco author Underwood teams again with Liwska to celebrate quiet, small moments, focusing on the many emotions that come with the holidays. “Reading by the fire quiet” and “listening for sleigh bells quiet” will bring readers back to those special moments we remember year-round. Here is a lovely preview of The Christmas Quiet Book from Google Books.



For more holiday books to share, head over to my article in this month's Parents Press. The review copy of Who Built the Stable came from our home library. Random House kindly sent a review copy of Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama. Houghton Mifflin kindly sent a review copy of The Christmas Quiet Book. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

1 Comments on Holiday books to share with your children (ages 2 - 8), last added: 12/10/2012
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8. Your Tu Books holiday book-buying guide

Hanukkah is in full swing, and Christmas is right around the corner. Thinking about getting a book for that teen or kid in your life? Or for the adult YA reader in your life (you are welcome in this no-judgement zone; we love YA too!). Don’t forget to include Tu Books in those plans! Here are a few examples of people you’re looking to find a gift for.

For the reader looking for comedy (sometimes light, sometimes a little morbid):

Cat Girl's Day OffGalaxyGames-FinalFront

For the teen looking for something with an edge:

Diverse EnergiesWolf Mark front cover FINALTankborn-Cover-Final

For the middle-grade reader or young teen looking for a “clean” read:

Summer of the MariposasCat Girl's Day OffGalaxyGames-FinalFront

For fans of folklore and fairy tales:

Summer of the Mariposas

For fans of science fiction, especially technology and space-related:

Tankborn-Cover-FinalGalaxyGames-FinalFront

For fans of Twilight:

Wolf Mark front cover FINAL

For fans of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Chicago:

Cat Girl's Day Off

 

Got any other kinds of readers in your life that need a Tu Book recommendation? Ask away in the comments!

Originally published at Stacy Whitman's Grimoire. You can comment here or there.

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9. Kosher beers for Hanukkah

By Garrett Oliver


I always knew that my family was a little different, but it wasn’t until my mid-teens that I realized exactly how weird we were. An African-American family living in the suburban greenery of Hollis, Queens, at the outskirts of New York City, we thought little of the fact that my father’s big hobby was hunting game birds. With dogs, no less. Often on horseback. Around the holidays, my Aunt Emma made wonderful chopped liver, and in the springtime, our table was often festooned with matzoh bread. It never occurred to us that these last two items were Jewish food traditions that rarely made forays into our community, and to this day, none of us are sure how they got there.

In a way, I think that this sort of culinary experience is at the heart of being an American, and as I travel the world, it’s one of the things that makes me proud of this country. As I prepare for Hanukkah celebrations with friends, I’m glad to say that beer is very much at the heart of the holiday meals. Some of my friends keep kosher, and many do not, but thankfully most beers are considered “kosher by default” in most parts of the world. Jewish dietary laws, kashrut, is interpreted by local councils of rabbis. In the United States, Canada and Israel, some people only eat foods that are specifically certified as kosher by rabbis, especially around Passover. At my brewery, we actually have some of our beers certified kosher for Passover, and a rabbi comes and blesses the beer!

Unless your own diet is very strict, there are very few beers that would ever cross your table that are off-limits, so you can tuck right into your holiday beer pairings. It’s nice to start off the meal with light, spritzy saisons, the farmhouse ales of Belgium. They’re dry and lively, and often show appetizing peppery and lemony aromatics. Re-fermentation in the bottle gives them a Champagne-like carbonation and texture, which is one reason why we often drink them out of Champagne flutes. Full-flavored beers can work wonders with the classics on the table, especially beef brisket and latkes. Both of these dishes are fatty, a little salty, and typified by caramelized flavors (no wonder we love them!), and beers with caramel and roasted flavors work well here. British and American brown ales are a good place to start, bringing light chocolate, caramel and coffee flavors that harmonize with everything, even sautéed Brussels sprouts. If you want something more complex, go for dark Trappist and abbey ales, where the dark color and caramel flavors come from highly caramelized sugars rather than grains. This translates into dried fruit and raisin-like flavors, along with rum-like flavors that remind me of Cracker Jacks or the burnt surface of a crème brulee.

When it’s time for dessert, beer really does outshine all other beverages. My favorite dessert beer style is imperial stout, a strong dark beer originally made for Catherine the Great. Brewed with large amounts of malts that have been roasted as dark as espresso coffee beans, imperial stouts taste like dark chocolate, coffee and dark fruit, making them a perfect foil for a range of desserts. With chocolate desserts, they play harmony, rowing in with similar flavors. With pastries such as rugelach, the coffee-like character is perfect, and the beer has just enough sweetness to match without becoming cloying. And these beers are a wonder with ice cream too — many people enjoy making ice cream floats with imperial stouts. Just make sure to have a soft-drink version ready for the kids!

The great thing about serving and bringing beer to the holiday table is that it’s fun. Everyone’s had one at some point or another, and though wine is great and has a wide range of flavor, it rarely surprises people. Beer, however, can be very surprising, because it can tastes like almost anything, from lemons and bananas to chocolate and coffee. Some friends and family might even leave your holiday table having discovered something brand new to like, and wouldn’t that be cool? This time of year I can’t help wishing that my Aunt Emma was still here; I’ll bet that Belgian abbey ales would have been great with her chopped liver, but I never learned how to make it. So among the other things you do this Hanukkah, teach the kids how to make your latkes! Though I’ll bet they’re not quite as good as mine.

Garrett Oliver, editor of The Oxford Companion to Beer, is the Brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery and author of The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food. He has won many awards for his beers, is a frequent judge for international beer competitions, and has made numerous radio and television appearances as a spokesperson for craft brewing.

The Oxford Companion to Beer is the first major reference work to investigate the history and vast scope of beer, featuring more than 1,100 A-Z entries written by 166 of the world’s most prominent beer experts. It is first place winner of the 2012 Gourmand Award for Best in the World in the Beer category, winner of the 2011 André Simon Book Award in the Drinks Category, and shortlisted in Food and Travel for Book of the Year in the Drinks Category. View previous Oxford Companion to Beer blog posts and videos.

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Image credit: Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout via Brooklyn Brewery.

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10. Light Winter's Darkness this Poetry Friday!

.
Howdy, Campers ~ Happy Poetry Friday!

Jama's hosting Poetry Friday today at Alphabet Soup 
(which is www.jamarattigan.com in case this link doesn't work)
...and if it's at Jama's it's sure to be tasty!

For my last post of 2012, I'm going to break from our series on publishing opportunities (see Esther's last two posts and Carmela's post, with more to come!)...

I've been thinking about my family and our, well, interesting year (especially the part about my husband dying of a heart attack and being brought back and now being completely and miraculously fine); about hard times and hope, about sunrises, candles, glowing kitchen windows at night, and about the dark of winter and the glint of winter sunlight.



WINTER SOLSTICE: GIRL TALKING TO THE SUN
 by April Halprin Wayland

On a hard day's chill,
when my heart stands still,
Sun, oh, Sun, where do you disappear?

Then Sun answers me,
answers quietly,
Look around, little girl, I am here, I am here.

© 2012 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

I am Jewish; I just recently learned that the fifth night of Hanukkah (which can be spelled many ways) is the first night in which there are more flames than darkness, more candles lit than unlit, and represents the triumph of light over darkness. 

I love that.

 
Okay...ready for today's writing workout, Campers?

WRITING WORKOUT: A Light in the Darkness

1) Take a cozy moment to scribble ten ideas triggered by the phrase, "a light in the darkness" or by the 1:06 minute video above.  Jot down memories, images, or the name of someone in particular who helped light your way in a dark time.

2) Consider imitating the rhyme scheme of the poem above:
A/A/B
C/C/B

3) Or write a 100-word story.  

3) Or write forget #2 and #3 and write the poem or story you were meant to write today.

4) Write like a little kid who is so jumpy-excited to get a piece of paper and a pencil she can barely sit still.  Give that little kid a chance; let's see what gift she creates for you this holiday season!

And speaking of gifts, don't forget to enter to win a gift for yourself or for some lucky teacher in your life: an autographed copy of JoAnn Early Macken's, Write a Poem Step by Step. I have her book and it's terrific!  See JoAnn's guest post for details.


Not actually in Southern California where I live, 
but in Phoenix, several years ago.
Still, a pretty note of light and hope 
with which to end the year...


Happy Holidays One and All!

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11. Hanukkah and Christmas: a spiritual interpretation

By Roger S. Gottlieb


Ahhh… the joys of the holiday season in America! A frightening degree of crass commercialism, public rages about the ‘war on Christmas,’ emotionally draining family events, or a soul-graying loneliness when you have no place to go. Food in abundance, but often consumed with a sense that it’s way off of one’s (more healthy) diet; or perhaps a nagging guilt that we in the middle/upper classes have so much more than the approximately 1 billion people who lack access to clean water, adequate food, and health services. We might notice that it is, again, “warmer than usual” — even though ‘warmer than usual’ is the new usual. Overall, there’s the unrelenting message that, of all things, we are supposed to be happy — a more effective recipe for discontent bordering on depression might not be easy to find.

Even though as a Jew some of this doesn’t touch me, a good deal does: from the spectacle to the parties to the social pressure about my mood.

Is there an answer to this? A way out? Well, the major claim of spirituality — defined simply as the attempt to be mindful, accepting, grateful, compassionate, and loving — is that the more one lives by these virtues the better one feels. Spirituality offers a sure path to long-lasting, non-addictive, non-destructive peace of mind, and makes you a lot more fun to be around as well. How would it work this season?

To begin, there are certain quite effective spiritual responses: gratitude for what we do have even if it’s not ideal, compassion on our troublesome family members, tolerance for the consumerist foibles of others and ourselves.

But there’s something else to try as well. What if we read the actual stories that are the basis of both Christmas and Hanukkah from a spiritual perspective? What if we put aside the hoopla, big sales, and parties graced by altogether too much alcohol and asked ourselves if these narratives contain a deep, significant, and quite personal meaning?

One way to read the great religious myths spiritually is to internalize them, understanding the different actors and narratives as aspects of our own selves and our own experience of the world.

Understood this way, what do the birth of Jesus and the Israelite victory over the Syrian Greek occupiers and their own assimilationists have to teach us?

On the most immediate level, there is the simple joy of birth and of rebirth. Taken as a reflection of our own lives, this indicates the permanent possibility that something new and wondrous is always possible. No matter how “poor” (in whatever sense) we are, even if we have to sleep in the stable or our traditions are being erased in favor of new gods, tomorrow a fundamental change for the better may come. In a kind of miracle, reality fundamentally shifts. This may come from the powers of nature as a birth. It may come from a seemingly impossible victory of a marginalized group over an unquestionably more powerful force. But if we stay tuned into the reality of our lives, if we do not turn our back on the permanent chance of transformation, we can trust that what we face now may not last.

As participants in the change, whose courage helps bring it about, and as witnesses to processes such as birth, which draw on mysteries beyond our comprehension, we surely live in a more blessed universe if we are able recognize that such events, even the darkest of times, remain possible. It is not an irrational faith, but realism more powerful than despair, which tells us that we do not know what the future will bring.

In the spiritual appropriation of sacred texts there is always a deeper — and often a darker and more difficult — level. Let us remember that we read the familiar stories of Jesus’ birth and the triumph of the Maccabees against a knowledge of what happens later. Jesus is crucified; the Temple, re-sanctified by Jewish rebels, is a few centuries later destroyed by the Romans. There is a birth, yes, but the birth gives way to a brutal execution; a rebirth to a 2000 year exile.

In this sequence we find the ultimate truth that all mortal realities — each child born, each ethnic tradition preserved or reconstituted — is at best limited and temporary. As persons we are born to die. As humans we are part of cultural groups which are just as mortal.

Each new beginning presages another ending; each joy, a loss. Yet paradoxically, only in the finitude of what we have is the reality of human life truly experienced. And only in that experience is an authentic spiritual joy possible without energy sapping denial, suppression of the truth of mortality, or a necessarily self-destructive clinging to that which inevitably fades.

Have a happy holiday? For sure! But happiness not based in the ego’s attachment to toys, sensual pleasures, or cultural identity. It is, rather, happiness rooted in the simple but spectacular truth that to be here, even for our brief time, is a miracle. As much a miracle as the birth of a Someone who would forgive us our sins, or the triumph of the oppressed over their rulers.

We too can be born, we too can rise up against the parts of ourselves that are oppressive, or the irrational social powers that surround us. We can do it knowing that eventually we will die, and that in all probability oppression will follow any liberation we experience or create, only to make room, hopefully, for more liberation in a cycle that is the analogue of any ecosystem.

If this is a purely earthly spirituality, if heaven and immortal life and the resurrection of the body don’t figure here, well, that is the only kind I personally understand.

Take it for what it’s worth. And have blessed holiday season.

Roger S. Gottlieb is professor of philosophy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, author of editor of seventeen books on religion, environmentalism, ethics, and political theory, and internet presence on Huffington, Patheos, and Tikkun Daily. His new book, Spirituality: What it Is and Why it Matters, has just been published by Oxford University Press.

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12. Holiday Bop with "The Hanukkah Hop"

Read It. Move It. Share It. 
With so many holidays to celebrate this month, I chose a holiday book -- The Hanukkah Hop -- for dance educator Maria Hanley to use as part of our monthly collaboration. Because I know Maria teaches many of her classes at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, I thought this would be the perfect book for her to try out in December. When you finish reading this post, you can hop on over to her blog, Maria's Movers, to read how her classes went!


I love that my kindergartner and second grader came home from school this month with projects celebrating so many different holidays. There were holiday word searches, gingerbread houses, a Kwanzaa coloring book, and even a hand-made dreidel!

Bookstores this month were also full of holiday books, including many new ones that were highlighted in a recent article from the Horn Book. If you happen to be looking for Hanukkah books in particular, Margo at The Fourth Musketeer also blogged this month about some of her favorites. I was happy to see The Hanukkah Hop, by Erica Silverman (author) and Steven D'Amico (illustrator), on her list. I bought my copy last year when the book was published, but I did notice that it was on the shelves at the stores again this year.

In the beginning of the book, young Rachel and her family are preparing to host a "Hanukkah Hop" for their extended family -- grandparents, nieces and nephews, great-aunts, second cousins, and friends from near and far. Rachel is getting the streamers ready, Daddy is blowing up balloons, and Mommy is making latkes. As the guests arrive, the party really starts, with plenty of dancing and a traditional Jewish band as a special guest...

The front door opens...
"Yah! Our special guests are here."
And carrying their instruments --
the klezmer band appears!

"Biddy-biddy bim-bom bim-bom bop."
Now we can get stomping at our Hanukkah Hop!"

As the dance party continues, readers will also learn what a menorah is, how to play with dreidels, and the history of Hanukkah -- all to the infectious beat of the text, broken up from time to time by the "biddy biddy him-bom bim-bom bop" refrain. Not all of the rhyme in the book is perfect, but you hardly notice because of the festive nature of the rhythm and of the illustrations, which are full of color, movement, and fine details that will make the book seem fresh on repeat readings.

The book also provides plenty of inspiration for movement. Rachel spins like a dreidel, streamers fall to the ground, balloons pop, and guests wiggle and hop. They also swing, sway, dive, and jump as they enjoy the music of the night. To find out if Maria incorporated any of these elements into her dance classes, you can read her post here.

Near the end of the book, Daddy starts cleaning up dishes, guests start snoozing, and Mommy looks for pillows and blankets to make the sleepy guests more comfortable. And then there is Rachel -- still energized by the music, joy, and spirit of the holiday season and not quite ready to hang up her dancing shoes!

"Biddy-biddy bim-bom bim-bom bop. 
I'm the only one still dancing at our Hanukkah Hop!"


Whether you celebrated Kwanzaa, Christmas, Hanukkah, or none of the above this month, there's still one holiday left that everyone can celebrate together -- New Year's Eve! Hope you fit some great music and lots of dancing into your evening tonight. Wishing you and yours a wonderful start to the new year. Happy holidays!!

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13. On World Diabetes Day, a guide to managing diabetes during the holidays

The International Diabetes Foundation has marked 14 November as World Diabetes Day, commemorating the date that Frederick Banting and his team first discovered insulin, and the link between it and diabetic symptoms.

As we approach the festive season, a time of year when indulgence and comfort are positively encouraged, keeping track of, or even thinking about blood glucose levels can become a difficult and annoying task. If good diabetic practice relies on building routines suited to the way your blood sugar levels change throughout the day, then the holidays can prove a big disruption to the task of keeping diabetes firmly in the background. With this in mind, take a look at this list of tips, facts, and advice taken from Diabetes by David Matthews, Niki Meston, Pam Dyson, Jenny Shaw, Laurie King, and Aparna Pal to help you stay in control and happy throughout the festive months:

  • Eat regularly. When big occasions cause your portion sizes to increase alarmingly, it’s tempting to skip or put off other meals. But eating large amounts at irregular intervals can cause blood glucose levels to rise significantly. For many, it’s better to snack throughout the day, including some starchy rather than sugary carbohydrates, promoting slow glucose release into the bloodstream.
  • Alternate drinks. Big dinners, big nights, and family days are likely to mean you consume more alcohol than normal. Alternating alcoholic drinks with diet drinks, soda, or mineral water can minimize their effect on blood glucose levels, so you can stay out, and keep up, without worrying.
  • Help your liver. Alcohol is metabolized by the liver, an organ that also helps release glucose into the bloodstream when levels start to drop. After drinking, the liver is busy processing alcohol, so cannot release glucose as effectively. This increases the risk of hypoglycaemia, especially in people who take insulin or sulphonylurea tablets. To combat this risk, try to avoid drinking on an empty stomach, or eat starchy foods when drinking. You may also need to snack before bed if you’re drinking in the evening.
  • Eat more, exercise more. Regular activity can have major benefits on your diabetes, making the insulin you produce or inject work more efficiently. Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise will have positive effects, and are excellent ways of giving you a mental boost (though blood glucose levels should be monitored). Many symptoms of hypos are similar to those of exercise, such as hotness, sweating or an increased heart rate. Check blood glucose levels regularly and make necessary adjustments; fruit contains natural sugar and is a healthy way of quickly raising levels.
  • Go for your New Year’s resolution. Losing five to ten percent of your starting weight can have a positive impact on your diabetes, not to mention your overall health. Although exercise and eating well are of course promoted by all as the best way to lose weight, there is no medical consensus on one ideal way to achieve weight loss. The key lies in finding an effective approach that you can maintain. Remember that insulin can slow down weight loss, and if you are trying to lose weight, but find you’re having hypos, you’ll need to adjust your medication. Discuss this with your healthcare team.
  • Check Labels. Sodium isn’t synonymous with salt, but many food manufacturers often list sodium rather than salt content on food packaging. To convert a sodium figure into salt, you need to multiply the amount of sodium by 2.5. (For example: A large 12 inch cheese and tomato pizza provides 3.6 g of sodium. 3.6 multiplied by 2.5 is 9, so, the pizza contains approximately 9g of salt; one and a half times the recommended maximum of 6g.)
  • Don’t worry! Although a good routine is important, occasional lapses shouldn’t have a drastic effect on blood glucose levels (though this varies from person to person). Pick up a healthy routine in the New Year, when you’ll feel most motivated, and stick to it. The World Health Organization estimates over 200 million people will have type 2 diabetes by the year 2015, but (according to the international diabetes foundation) over 70% of cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented by adopting healthier lifestyles. Healthy living is not just a supplement, but part of the treatment of diabetes.

Heading image: Christmas Eve by Carl Larsson. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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14. My Writing and Reading Life: Natasha Wing, Author of The Night Before Hanukkah

Some of Natasha Wing's books have even ended up on bestseller lists, including the wildly popular The Night Before series.

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15. My Two Holidays: A Hanukkah and Christmas Story

My Two Holidays. Danielle Novack. Illustrated by Phyllis Harris. 2010. Scholastic. 32 pages.

One cold December morning, Sam woke up and looked out his window. Everything was covered with white snow. Winter was Sam's favorite time of year. He loved sledding, ice-skating, building snowmen, and, of course, celebrating the holidays. He was so excited that he jumped out of bed, got dressed, and ran downstairs. 

Sam celebrates two holidays. His mom is Jewish and celebrates Hanukkah. His father is Christian and celebrates Christmas. Sam has always loved celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas. But one day at school he gets embarrassed by the teacher's question. She is asking each child to share about the holiday they celebrate that time of year. Sam feels uncomfortable because he is the only child to have two holidays to celebrate. Everyone else only has one. Sam wants to know why he is different. A cozy conversation with his mom changes his embarrassment to pride, the next day Sam is all too happy to share the wonderful news with his class that he has two holidays that he celebrates.


© Becky Laney of Young Readers

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16.


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17. Holiday Round-Up

I know, it seems crazy to talk about the holiday season already.  But this is also the point where we start putting in book orders for the latest titles and replacing old books as well.  So let’s jump in and talk about some of the newest books for the holiday season:

MARY ENGELBREIT’S NUTCRACKER by Mary Engelbreit (On-sale: 11.1.11).  Download the memory game

THE HAPPY ELF by Harry Connick Jr., illustrated by Dan Andreasen (On-sale now).  Based on the song by Harry Connick Jr., this comes with a CD.  You can also watch the video.

A CHRISTMAS GOODNIGHT by Nola Buck, illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright (On-sale now).  In its starred review, Publishers Weekly said that this book “serves special status, to be kept off-season with other holiday decorations and then brought out each year at Christmas.”

THE LITTLEST EVERGREEN by Henry Cole (On-sale now).  School Library Journal calls this “a fine Christmas choice with an environmental message.”

FANCY NANCY: SPLENDIFEROUS CHRISTMAS by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser (On-sale now).  Download the event guide.

Need to replace books in your collection?  Here are some possible titles that you may need to re-order:

18. Top Cookbooks for the Holidays

Turkey, sugar cookies, hot chocolate, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes. Our mouths are watering and stomachs grumbling just with the thought of these delicious dishes! As the holidays quickly approach, we’re getting ready to break out our favorite festive recipes and cookbooks. At Thurber House, we love celebrations that include delicious food. To prepare for the upcoming holidays, we’ve compiled a list of 20 cookbooks, sure to impress your hungry friends and family – whether you’re cooking a five-course Thanksgiving feast, or participating in a cookie swap at work.
Do you have a favorite family recipe you’ll whip up this season? Share it in the comments!

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19. Favorite Holiday Books

By Nicki Richesin, The Children’s Book Review
Published: November 29, 2011

During the holiday season it’s a great joy to share family traditions and spend time together. Every year, I look forward to reading these beloved books below to my daughter.

The Story of Holly & Ivy

By Rumer Godden; illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Rumer Godden begins The Story of Holly & Ivy with the sweetest line, “This is a story about wishing.” When an orphan named Ivy and a dreamy doll named Holly see each other through a toy shop window, magic happens. In this classic Christmas tale, Holly and Ivy both find a sense of belonging in their new home and to each other. Wishes come true in part thanks to Barbara Cooney’s tender illustrations of the festive village and toys. Godden captures the precious beauty of a brave girl unwilling to give up on her dream. (Ages 5-10)

Christmas Tree Memories

By Aliki

My daughter and I love returning to Christmas Tree Memories by Aliki each December just like the family’s tradition in the book of sitting by their tree with cookies and a roaring fire to recount each story behind their homemade ornaments. Aliki imbues such gentleness to each character, whether it’s Papouli or the children, the love this family feels for each other comes across with her every detail. (Ages 4-8)

Jingle Bells

By Iza Trapani

Jingle Bells (as told and illustrated by Iza Trapani) is a rollicking fun songbook filled with holiday customs and traditions from around the world. Children will enjoy learning about bearded little gnomes in Sweden, lantern parades in the Philippines, breaking the piñata in Mexico, and presents found in their shoes in Italy. (Ages 4-8)

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20. Thursday Three: Holiday Books

My kids aren't little anymore and our taste in holiday picture books has changed. These are my favorite books for the season even when it seems like everyone is too old for picture books. Never, my friends, never.

The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming.
by Lemony Snicket


The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop ScreamingJust hysterical. A latke runs screaming from the frying pan, and encounters various Christmas icons along its path. As the latke explains what it is and its significance in the celebration of Hanukkah, it keeps getting compared to Christmas. And so it keeps screaming. Lemony Snicket actually gets in a fair bit about the meaning of Hanukkah, while keeping a wry tone throughout. For instance as the latke explains in a long paragraph about being fried in oil as a reference to the oil that was used to rededicate the temple and the miracle that made the oil last for eight nights, the answer it receives is par for the course:

“So you’re basically hash browns,” said the flashing colored lights. “Maybe you can be served alongside a Christmas ham.”

“I’m not hash browns!” cried the latke. “I’m something completely different!”
And then it runs screaming, “AAAHHHHHHHHH!” for two pages. As my kids have grown past the traditional - and too often schmaltzy - Hannukkah stories, this one is our new family classic.

The Lump of Coal
by Lemony Snicket


The Lump of CoalOn the same note, we've turned to this title to replace the cute Christmas stories that absorbed us in the past. It contains perhaps one of the most perfect opening sentences of all times:
The holiday season is a time for storytelling, and whether you are hearing the story of a candelabra staying lit for more than a week, or a baby born in a barn without proper medical supervision, these stories often feature miracles.
A humble lump of coal longs to be something more and visits an art gallery and Korean barbecue in hopes of fulfilling his search for meaning. Instead a drugstore Santa decides he'll be the perfect thing for his stepson's stocking as punishment. But this ill intent goes right as the coal finds his purpose in an artist's hand. Wry, funy and odd, this book ends on just the right note for the holidays, and in echoing the first sentence, with miracles.

Robert's Snowflakes
by Grace Lin


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21. Pancake City: The Golem's Latkes

When I first saw The Golem's Latkes I was skeptical. First, because I find the concept of the Golem a little creepy and second, because I confess I have failed to find many picture books about the Jewish holidays that inspire me. The ones I find in the library all seem to either feel the need to recount every historical detail of the event in full or are about spiders (Sammy, anyone?).

I don't read books about spiders. No matter how good other people say they are. Period.

But I digress.

In Eric Kimmel's latest Hanukkah offering, The Golem's Latkes, Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague crafts the legendary Golem from clay, writes a magical word on his forehead and then sets him to work with household chores. When his housemaid, Basha, requests the Golem to help her get ready for Hanukkah, the Rabbi reluctantly agrees but warns her not to leave the Golem alone or he will never stop working. Basha, impressed by the Golem's cooking skills, instructs him to continue making latkes while she pops out to gossip with her friend. Just for a minute, you understand. The Golem, true to his clay-for-brains form, makes latkes enough to fill the streets of Prague. When Rabbi Judah finally commands him to stop there are enough latkes to have what is essentially a city-wide latke block party -- for eight days. The story ends on the anticipatory high note while Basha contemplates if the Golem may also be skilled in the art of making hamantaschen for Purim.

I'm not an expert on either the Golem or on Jewish narratives so I will not make any authoritative statements about whether or not Rudolf II would actually attend a Hanukkah party given by Rabbi Loew (although I believe he was rather cosmopolitan), or whether or not the Golem would be set to work making latkes in lieu of defending the Jewish ghettos. Not to mention: hello? where did all the potatoes come from? I'm sure there are many narratives and many incarnations of the Golem and his story, so why not have a little fun with it.

The Golem's Latkes is an exceptionally fun read aloud for the holiday. It's playful, quirky and fortunately Aaron Jasiski's Golem is more cute than he is creepy. The setting of medieval Prague can't be beat and I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't like to attend a party with limitless latkes and wagons full of sour cream.

Latkes: they bring people together.

Want More?
The Whole Megillah has a lightening fast pros and cons of the book.
The New York Times likens the book to Disney's Sorcerer's Apprentice.
Eric Kimmel has written loads of other books: find out about them on his website.

Big Kid says: Are you making latkes this year?
Little Kid says: This is the book about cookies.

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22. Thursday Three: Hanukkah

The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes
by Linda Glaser

The Borrowed Hanukkah LatkesAs a family prepares for Hanukkah, more guests are due to arrive than expected. The daughter, Rachel, borrows potatoes and eggs from their elderly neighbor to make the latkes, each time hoping that by borrowing food she will convince the woman to join the family for Hanukkah. She can’t make her come over, but in the end comes up with another plan to bring Hanukkah to the woman. Light and bright illustrations complement the tone perfectly. A fun story that doesn't feel the need to explain either the history or the specific celebration of the holiday. There a sequel too, Mrs Greenberg's Messy Hanukkah.

Hanukkah at Valley Forge
by Stephen Krensky

Hanukkah at Valley ForgeIn the middle of the Revolutionary War, a soldier takes a quiet moment to celebrate Hanukkah. Spotted by General Washington, he explains religious history of Hanukkah as we see the connection between the fight of the Maccabees and America’s fight with the British. The book has a historical basis, as the author's note describes. Lovely book too, in its detailed watercolor illustrations.


Chanukah Lights
by Michael Rosen

There's no need to review this new and spectacular book. I got the promotion piece at Book Expo America and was already sold on this title. Just watch.



Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

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23. Sydney Taylor Book Award: honoring books that portray Jewish experiences

Every year, I am excited to see the books selected for the Sydney Taylor Book Award by the Association of Jewish Libraries. This award "honors new books for children and teens that exemplify the highest literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience." This award is in honor of Sydney Taylor, author of The All-of-a-Kind Family, a classic series about an immigrant Jewish family in New York City in the early 1900s.

I'd like to highlight a few books from their list this year that particularly struck me as having wonderful appeal to children and families:


Chanukah Lights
by Michael Rosen and Robert Sabuda
MA: Candlewick, 2011
ages 7 - 10
2012 Sydney Taylor Book Award for Younger Readers
available at your local library, favorite bookstore and on Amazon
Michael Rosen and Robert Sabuda are honored with the 2012 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Younger Readers Category for Chanukah Lights, an intricate cut paper pop-up book that celebrates Jewish history and the Chanukah holiday. Barbara Bietz, Chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, said: “From the shtetl to skyscrapers, the white pop-up scenes against a background of deep rainbow colors illuminate Jewish life for the eight nights of Chanukah. Together, children and adults will marvel at the stunning scenes that magically unfold with each turn of the page.”
Naamah and the Ark at Night
by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
illustrations by Holly Meade
MA: Candlewick, 2011
ages 4 - 8
2012 Sydney Taylor honor award
available at your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
As Noah’s wif

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24. Hanukkah Read Up!

The Association of Jewish Libraries has created “Hanukkah Read Up!,” a list of Hanukkah books for children recommended by the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee. The colorful 2-page flyer is available on the AJL website at http://tinyurl.com/AJLhanukkah. All the titles on the list have been recognized by the award committee as gold or silver medalists or as “Notable Books.” A special section is devoted to the Hanukkah works of prolific author Eric A. Kimmel, a past Sydney Taylor Body-of-Work Award winner.

The list should prove interesting and useful for families seeking Hanukkah titles for their children, to read together or buy as gifts, as well as for librarians who wish to purchase titles for their holiday shelves. AJL members and friends are welcome to distribute the list, digitally or printed out, to their own library patrons.

Happy Hanukkah and Happy Reading!

Heidi Estrin
AJL President
Host, The Book of Life



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25. 2 New Hanukkah Books

By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: December 5, 2012

In case you’re looking for some new books to spice up your “Books that Celebrate Hanukkah” collection, here are two titles that we think you’ll love reading (and cooking with) as you celebrate the Festival of Lights.

Maccabee Meals: food and Fun for Hanukkah

By Judye Groner & Madeline Wikler; Illustrated by Ursula Roma

Reading level: Ages 5-10

Paperback: 64 pages

Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing (August 1, 2012)

Chow your way through Chanukah with this kid-friendly cookbook that provides recipes for eight kinds of latkes (and much more), crafts and games for eight themed parties, and tidbits of factual information about the holiday itself.  Illustrated dreidels highlight the degree of difficulty for each recipe: One dreidel means no cooking or baking is required. Two dreidels means the recipe may require chopping or slicing. Three dreidels means a hot stove is used to boil or fry. Safety tips are party etiquette are offered up, too. Here comes Chanukkah! Use this cookbook and you’ll have so much funukah! And … don’t forget your yamaka!

How Do dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah?

By Jane Yolen; Illustrated by Mark Teague

Reading level: Ages 0-4

Hardcover: 40 pages

Publisher: The Blue Sky Press (September 1, 2012)

This bestselling writer and illustrator duo hit the spot (AGAIN!) with their zippy rhymes and entertaining illustrations. Gigantic dinosaurs with their juvenile and mischievous antics take the edge off  any holiday tension and manage to encourage good behavior. A lesson in manners and a laugh, what more could you ask for? This book is a guaranteed must-read all eight nights of Chanukah.

Looking for more Hanukkah books? Try our lists from previous years:

8 Hanukkah books: One for Each Day

Kids’ Hanukkah Books: One for Each Night

Original article: 2 New Hanukkah Books

©2012 The Childrens Book Review. All Rights Reserved.

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