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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Hanukkah, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. 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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2. 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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Image credit: Christmas shopping xwoman stress. Photo by Maridav, iStockphoto.

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3. 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.

 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:

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!

13 Comments on Light Winter's Darkness this Poetry Friday!, last added: 12/23/2012
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4. 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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5. 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:


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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6. 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

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7. 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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8. 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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9. 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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10. 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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11. 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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12. 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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13. 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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14. 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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15. 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:


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17. Christmas/Hanukkah Giveaway!

Could we *be* any prouder of Simone here at Books, Boys, Buzz with her awesome new release, PERFECT CHEMISTRY? We probabaly could be, but then we'd be busting all of the buttons off our clothes from the pride! Huge congrats to Simone on her release!!! Can't wait for Amazon.com to deliver my copy.

And you, too, can have your very own SIGNED copy of the book. My Christmas/Hanukkah present to one of our awesome readers! All you have to do is leave holiday greetings in the comments trail...as many times as you'd like. No limit to the entries this time! What they hay...it's the holidays! Cheers and glad tidings all around.

Here's wishing you and yours an awesome holiday season and all good things for 2009! Thanks for supporting the Buzz Girls and we're looking forward to an awesome New Year!

Big hugs,
Marley = )

GHOST HUNTRESS: THE AWAKENING (Coming May 2009, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
GHOST HUNTRESS: THE GUIDANCE (Coming October 2009, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
GHOST HUNTRESS: THE REASON (Coming May 2010, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
SORORITY 101: Zeta or Omega? (Available from Puffin Books)
SORORITY 101: The New Sisters (Available from Puffin Books)

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18. Feliz Navidad y Gud Yontif!

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19. Celebrating holidays - with family and neighbors (ages 5 - 10)

Winter holidays are soon here, and this season I would like to share with you several holiday stories that stand out above the rest, stories that are worth searching for at bookstores or the library.  Two of my favorites to share with children in grades 2 through 5 are The Trees of the Dancing Goats, by Patricia Polacco, and One Candle, by Eve Bunting.  Both are warm, loving stories that celebrate family and community, while sharing some of the deeper moments of holidays.
The Trees of the Dancing Goats
by Patricia Polacco
NY : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, ©1996
ages 5 - 9
When young Tricia's neighbors come down with Scarlet Fever, her family is worried. It's the middle of winter, and Tricia's family celebrates Hanukkah, following her Russian grandparents' traditions. It's an exciting time, as her grandmother hand dips candles for Hanukkah, and her grandfather carves little wooden animals as a present for the children. But when they realize that their neighbors won't be able to celebrate Christmas properly because they are so sick, Tricia's family reaches out to help.  They bring their neighbors meals, Christmas trees, and even decorations. It's a lovely tale of friendship, sharing and community, based on Patricia Polacco's own childhood memories.
One Candle
by Eve Bunting
illustrated by K. Wendy Popp
NY: Joanna Cotler Books, 2002.
ages 8 - 10

One Candle, by Eve Bunting, is a soft, powerful tale that is very evocative for me.  A family gathers together to celebrate Hanukkah, and Grandma brings a potato as she does every year.  When she was younger, the narrator thought this potato was to make latkes.  But now she realizes that it's so that Grandma and Great-Aunt Rose can tell the story of

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20. Holiday Dinosaurs

I visited New York City last week to hang out with my son Matt. We braved the wind and rain on Wednesday to visit some museums. Guess where we found a pair of evergreen dinosaurs?

At the Museum of Natural History. The dinosaurs smelled super fragrant and were very, very big!

So that started me thinking, what do dinosaurs do for the holidays? You, of course, know where to look for the answer to that question--picture books!

Here are some suggested titles to help discover all the dinos' holiday happenings:

DINOSAUR ON HANUKKAH by Diane Levin Rauchwerger


If you wrote a story about dinosaur happenings over the holidays, how would your holidaysaurus be celebrating?

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21. Bright City: Chanukah Lights Everywhere

Chanukah Lights EverywhereMom says:
Chanukah is just around the corner! In Chanukah Lights Everywhere, the focus is on the secular. Noticeably absent is a retelling of the Chanukah story. Instead, as the lights of the menorah get lit night after night, the child narrator notices other lights around him: the moon, the stars, Christmas lights, etc. The family goes for a walk around their urban neighborhood and enjoy the candlelight from their neighbors' windows.

There is a (very) short synopsis of the Chanukah story in a note at the end of the book, as well as an explanation of the Chanukah candles. This book won't win any awards, but it is a nice change of pace from all the Chanukah picture books which focus on the religious aspect of the holidays.

Big Kid says: When are we going to light our menorah?
Little Kid says: Lights!

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22. Holiday Picks with Lots of Kid Appeal

Two Christmas books and one Hanukkah title are my first picks for holiday titles this year.

hills christmas

Duck & Goose: It’s Time for Christmas by Tad Hills

Another winner from Duck & Goose, this board book takes a quietly funny approach to the holidays.  Duck is in a hurry to get somewhere, but Goose wants to linger a bit.  Goose wants to catch snowflakes, slide down hills, build a snow fort, and much more.  It isn’t until the very end of the book that readers learn where Duck was headed in such a hurry.  The illustrations are clever and very inviting, especially to fans of other Duck and Goose books.  The gentle humor and great friendship is exactly what we have come to expect from Hills.  With its short text and board pages, this book will appeal most to children aged 1-3.


It’s Christmas David! by David Shannon

Around Christmas time, everyone always said, “No David!” whenever he tried to do anything!  No peeking at presents, no stealing cookies, no playing with ornaments, no opening presents early.  And then he also had to be patient in lines, be polite at the dinner table, and go to sleep on time.  Of course, David does get into some funny trouble in the book with a reprise of one of the most popular scenes from an earlier David book that is sure to delight young readers.  A grand and very funny look at the holidays that children are sure to relate to.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

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Hanukkah: a Counting Book by Emily Sper

This was a favorite picture book of mine a few years ago, and it is a real joy to see it released as a board book.  The thick board pages work beautifully with the cut outs of the candles.  Turning each page leads to another candle being added to the menorah.  Each page features text in English, Yiddish and Hebrew.  Children can count the candles and also another object related to the holiday.  Young listeners will enjoy the bright colors and simplicity of the book.  Appropriate for ages 1-3.

All books are reviewed from books received from the publishers.

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23. Happy Hanukkah! With Coloring Tutorial!

This is a paper doll based on the star of my book Mimi, which I first posted last year in a longer piece about the holiday (complete with book recommendations and latke recipe) here. I've colored the sheet with colored pencils (though unfortunately it hasn't photographed great and scanned even worse...) Anyway, as a gift for the first day of Hanukkah, I'm going to offer some tips on coloring for young artists.
Below is the uncolored page, which you can dowload and print as a pdf here.
By the way, I apologize if you tried to download this or any of my other free printables recently and got asked to pay a monthly subscription fee to Scribd first. Apparently they were trying an "experiment" by asking people to subscribe in order to use "archived" documents (which they defined as anything that had been on there more than a couple months). They didn't notify users, so I didn't realize. But I've now changed my settings and you should once again be able to download all my printables for free. Sorry!
Tip Number One: Use the Best Quality Supplies You Can
One thing many people don't realize is that the kind of colored pencils marketed for kids are, well, lousy. If you are lucky, you'll get even a small set of artist-quality colored pencils, like these ones made by Prismacolor for Hanukkah or Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate.

As you can see, good supplies are much more expensive than the kid-quality ones - the smallest set of 12 pencils is $10 US at 50% off at the above retailer - but they are totally worth it for several reasons. First, they work better which enables kids to produce a better final product which encourages them in turn to work harder and longer at their artwork. Second, kids are more likely to take care of and keep track of something that is special and valuable; this te

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24. The Cave of Mattathias

This evening is the first night of Hanukkah/Hanukah/Chanukah — and what better way is there to celebrate than with a holiday story? Here is “The Cave of Mattathias,” a tale that originated in Eastern Europe and was passed down in the oral tradition. It is one of many stories included in Howard Schwartz’s Leaves from the Garden of Eden: One Hundred Classic Jewish Tales. Happy Hanukah!

In a village near the city of Riminov there was a Hasid whose custom it was to bring newly made oil to Reb Menachem Mendel of Riminov, and the rabbi would light the first candle of Hanukah in his presence.

One year the winter was hard, the land covered with snow, and everyone was locked in his home. But when the eve of Hanukah arrived, the Hasid was still planning to deliver the oil. His family pleaded with him not to go, but he was determined, and in the end he set out across the deep snow.

That morning he entered the forest that separated his village from Riminov, and the moment he did, it began to snow. The snow fell so fast that it covered every landmark, and when at last it stopped, the Hasid found that he was lost. The whole world was covered with snow.

Now the Hasid began to regret not listening to his family. Surely the rabbi would have forgiven his absence. Meanwhile, it had become so cold that he began to fear he might freeze. He realized that if he were to die there in the forest, he might not even be taken to a Jewish grave. That is when he remembered the oil he was carrying. In order to save his life, he would have to use it. There was no other choice.

As quickly as his numb fingers could move, he tore some of the lining out of his coat and fashioned it into a wick, and he put that wick into the snow. Then he poured oil on it and prayed with great intensity. Finally, he lit the first candle of Hanukah, and the flame seemed to light up the whole forest. And all the wolves moving through the forest saw that light and ran back to their hiding places.

After this the exhausted Hasid lay down on the snow and fell asleep. He dreamed he was walking in a warm land, and before him he saw a great mountain, and next to that mountain stood a palm tree. At the foot of the mountain was the opening of a cave. In the dream, the Hasid entered the cave and found a candle burning there. He picked up that candle, and it lit the way for him until he came to a large cavern, where an old man with a very long beard was seated. There was a sword on his thigh, and his hands were busy making wicks. All of that cavern was piled high with bales of wicks. The old man looked up when the Hasid entered and said: “Blessed be you in the Name of God.”

The Hasid returned the old man’s blessing and asked him who he was. He answered: “I am Mattathias, father of the Maccabees. During my lifetime I lit a big torch. I hoped that all of Israel would join me, but only a few obeyed my call. Now heaven has sent me to watch for the little candles in the houses of Israel to come together to form a very big flame. And that flame will announce the Redemption and the End of Days.

“Meanwhile, I prepare the wicks for the day when everyone will contribute his candle to this great flame. And now, there is something that you must do for me. When you reach the Rabbi of Riminov, tell him that the wicks are ready, and he should do whatever he can to light the flame that we have awaited so long.”

Amazed at all he had heard, the Hasid promised to give the message to the rabbi. As he turned to leave the cave, he awoke and found himself standing in front of the rabbi’s house. Just then the rabbi himself opened the door, and his face was glowing. He said: “The power of lighting the Hanukah candles is very great. Whoever dedicates his soul to this deed brings the time

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25. 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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