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A Guide To Selecting Your Perfect Chanukah Book

Monday, December 08, 2014 | Permalink

Posted by Chava Lansky

Here's your guide to selecting your perfect book for Chanukah this year! Want a larger version? Click the image! You can find links to all of these titles below the graphic.

Read More about These Books!

The Last Ember; Rabbi Rocketpower and the Mystery of the Missing Menorahs; Five Centuries of Hanukkah Lamps from the Jewish Museum; Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins; Jewish Holiday Origami; How to Spell Chanukah; Hanukkah in America; Honeyky Hanukah; The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming; Cooking Jewish.

Related Content:

2014 Jewish Book Council Chanukah Gift Guide

Monday, November 17, 2014 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

We know you book lovers out there have been waiting all year for what's finally upon us: Jewish Book Month — an annual event to promote Jewish literature the month preceding Chanukah (this year Jewish Book Month runs from November 16th-December 16th)! While we work all year to promote Jewish interest literature, this is the month when many of our efforts culminate in hundreds of events across the country featuring Jewish interest books and authors. If you're looking for an interesting book event, now is the time to start checking out your local listings. You can see if your community hosts a Jewish book fair or event with JBC authors by visiting our list of participating JBC Network sites.

With Jewish Book Month in full swing, it's also time to start thinking about Chanukah, and, of course, that means Chanukah gifts. In our humble opinion, there is no better gift for the holiday season than a good book and we certainly have no shortage of recommendations. That said, we did decide to offer a quick 2014 gift-giving cheat sheet below, in case you don't have time to browse through the thousands of books filling our book archive (although we do recommend a browse — we've got something for everyone!).

So take a gander below, check out the children's Chanukah gift-giving guide here, and if you have a loved one in the NYC area, consider buying them a Jewish Literary Map of NYC or a JBC Circle membership for Unpacking the Book: Jewish Writers in Conversation. Use gift code CH2014 to receive an extra 15% off your JBC Circle membership!

(Feel free to add your own 2014 gift recommendations in the comments below.)


Related Content:

2014 Jewish Book Council Chanukah Gift Guide for Children

Monday, November 17, 2014 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

We know it's only November, but we've already got Chanukah on our mind. Earlier today we published our 2014 Chanukah gift-giving guide for adults, but our list wouldn't be complete without a few books for the youngins. See our 2014 Children's & YA cheatsheet below for the newest holiday books, illustrated titles, middle grade reads, and YA novels:

Chanukah Books
Picture Books
Middle Grades
Young Adult

Related content:

Chanukah Adaptations

Thursday, November 07, 2013 | Permalink

Making our way through a stack of recently published children's Chanukah books for our first 8 Nights of Stories series, we were charmed by some familiar echoes harking back to a few of our favorite children's classics. Read all of the posts in our Eight Nights of Stories series here.

If you loved...

Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
Tomie de Paola's iconic Calabrese fairy godmother entrusts the care of her home and garden to Big Anthony, who can't resist the temptation of her magic pasta pot. If you're familiar with The Sorcerer's Apprentice, you know how this goes.

...your kids will like:

The Golem's Latkes by Eric A. Kimmel; Aaron Jasinski, illus.
With the Golem hanging around Rabbi Judah's house, why should housemaid Basha do all the work? With plenty of guests coming over for the first night of Chanukah, Basha sets the Golem to sweeping, mopping, and making latkes. But who will tell the Golem to stop?

If you loved...

A Tale of Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter
Mischievous mice Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca make a mess of the lovely dollhouse wherein Lucinda and her cook-doll, Jane, reside, only to regret their impulsive acts of vandalism and theft. How will they make amends for their naughty behavior?

...your kids will like:

The Hanukkah Mice by Steven Kroll; Michelle Shapiro, illus.
A family of mice living in the Stillman's basement move into a dollhouse that arrives on the first night of Hanukkah. With each night of the holiday, new furnishments miraculously materialize in the miniature home. But where are these gifts coming from?

If you loved...

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
The beloved moonlight walk of a boy with a vivid imagination and a crayon to match.

...your kids will like:

Journey by Aaron Becker
Ok, this book doesn't really have a Chanukah theme: it's just lovely. The wordless journey of a lonely girl and her vermilion chalk through a breathtaking world of fantasy rendered by Amherst-based artist Aaron Becker, The New York Times Book Review aptly deems this picture book "A masterwork. A beauty distinctly its own."

If you loved...

It Could Always Be Worse by Margot Zemach
The classic Yiddish folktale of an overcrowded house and a wise rabbi's bewildering instructions to its disgruntled inhabitants.

...your kids will like:

A Horse for Hanukkah by Myriam Halberstam; Nancy Cote, illus.
On the first night of Hanukkah, Hannah receives the gift she's been wishing for: a horse! But having a horse in the house is much more hassle than Hannah anticipated, and each night of the holiday ends in equine mishap. As the eighth night of Hanukkah draws nigh, what will her family do? Sweet illustrations, holiday customs, and a smattering of Hebrew expressions enhance this festive be-careful-what-you-wish-for story about resorting to reasonable wishes.

If you loved...

"The Brave Little Tailor" by the Brothers Grimm
Tale number 20 of the stories collected by the Brothers Grimm: a confident young man sets out into the world and takes on a giant, outwitting him at every challenge.

...your kids will like:

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric A. Kimmel; Trina Schart Hyman, illus.
Read why here.

Check back tomorrow for the next installment of the Jewish Book Council Eight Nights of Stories series!


Wednesday, November 06, 2013 | Permalink

Welcome to the second installment of the Jewish Book Council's Eight Nights of Stories series! Missed yesterday's reading list on Hanukkah magic? Catch up here.
What's Eight Nights of Stories all about? Read Nat's explanatory blog post!

Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen

There can’t possibly be a better book, for readers of any age, for the intersection of Chanukah and Thanksgiving. My mother (she who recognized the potential for Harry Potter well before its popularity soared in North America, remember) has always averred that Molly’s Pilgrim is one of the best children’s books ever written, period. Barbara Cohen masterfully unravels the complex subject of American identity for young readers through the simple story of a Jewish Russian immigrant girl’s Thanksgiving school assignment. The narrative is timeless, and speaks to universal experiences of otherness, heritage, and childhood. It’s a book to be read every autumn, year after year.

Does your teen need an update to this story? YA novel Losers by Matthue Roth also focuses on the Russian immigrant experience in the American classroom, similarly addressing questions of identity and belonging, but with an edgier, older twist.

If Molly's Pilgrim sparks an interest in the experience of Russian Jews, it's shared with Emma Lazarus, the Jewish American poet best known for composing the inscription on the Statue of Liberty. Emma's Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Libert by Linda Glaser and illustrated by Claire A Nivola detail Lazarus' young mentorship under Ralph Waldo Emerson, blossoming career of poetry and political activism, and her commission for "The New Colossus".

Nadia Kalman was 2010 Sami Rohr Prize finalist for her debut work of fiction, The Cosmopolitans. The novel follows the stories of an aging Russian immigrant couple in suburban Massachusetts and their three adult daughters, each family member facing challenges of identity and human interaction. The Cosmopolitans is blunt: it doesn't crow the feel-good, inspiring ending of Molly's Pilgrim, but it is darkly humorous, delivering a very real taste of the modern Russian American family.

The Brilliance of Chanukah

Tuesday, November 05, 2013 | Permalink

We thought we'd kick off Eight Nights of Stories series with a Hanukkah classic—but scroll down, there's plenty more! Click on book images for JBC reviews and links to purchase each book through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.
What's Eight Nights of Stories all about? Read Nat's explanatory blog post!

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins
by Eric Kimmel; Trina Schart Hyman, illus.

On the eve of the first night of Chanukah, legendary jokester Hershel of Ostropol reaches a darkened village where goblins plague the villagers like the Grinch on Whoville. Everyone knows that goblins abhor light and merriment, (just ask Curdie,) but instead of retreating to caves in the mountains, these beastly creatures have settled in the village synagogue and snuffed out Chanukah throughout the town. Ever the unlikely hero, Hershel resolves to stay in the haunted synagogue, celebrating the holiday and outwitting the increasingly fearsome goblins night after night—but can he save Chanukah once and for all?

Prolific children’s author and folklorist Eric Kimmel has written a trove’s worth of delightful Chanukah books for children, but Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins is his Caldecott Honor-winning masterpiece. The charm and suspense of this Jewish incarnation of “The Brave Little Tailor” are matched by impeccable illustrations that capture the humor and spookiness of the story all at once, and the tale itself is sure to engage young readers year after year.

Chances are your kids have already read (and loved) Hershel. The magic needn't stop there. Marilyn Hirsch's The Rabbi and the Twenty-Nine Witches is a great read for the full moon, any month. This timeless, utterly charming book is actually based on a lesser-known tale from Talmud, in which a cunning rabbi sets out to rid a neighboring cave of "twenty-nine of the meanest, scariest, ugliest, wickedest witches that ever were." Though undoubtedly a children's book, The Rabbi and the Twenty-Nine Witches holds enough intrigue and sophistication in the narrative and illustrations to captivate my teenage students whenever I bring this book into class!

Of course, that doesn't mean that advancing readers should be left rereading the picture books of their youth—nor should they abandon tales of whimsy, either. Janusz Korczak, now remembered primarily as the tragic hero of the Warsaw Ghetto, left a literary legacy of magical stories that were hugely popular throughout Poland from the late 1920s on. Korczak truly understood children and the transitions they face, and wielded his masterful storytelling to help his young readers understand questions of responsibility and empowerment. Thankfully, a couple of his works for readers 10 and up have been translated into English in the last decade, eliciting comparisons to the adventures Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. King Matt the First certainly holds elements of both, plus a hearty dose of Pippi of the South Seas and a dash of The Chronicles of Narnia.

After the kids are asleep...

Start reading The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. You'll thank me for it.

Yes, this is a book I'd recommend any night of the year, but it fits into the continuity of magic and mysticism that flows throughout tonight's list. The jinn is a creature of fire, which I think nicely reflects the theme of a small flame's resistance against darkness and evil in Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. But besides all that, you'll find reading each chapter of The Golem and the Jinni like a present to yourself for every night. Go on, you deserve it!

It's Hanukkah Time! Where's the Party?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012 | Permalink

Last week, Joshua Eli Plaut wrote about Festivus and Jewish Santas. He will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

Every December, I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of Jewish celebrations taking place across the United States. This is a continuing testimony to what I document and espouse in my recently published book A Kosher Christmas: 'Tis the Season to Be Jewish. We Jews can rejoice in Jewish ways beyond the Hanukkah festival and embrace the goodwill generated by Christmas to find Jewish meaning in the December holiday season.

Saturday night marked the first night of Hanukkah. Menorah lightings will abound in homes and in public places. I presided over the menorah lighting at East 35th and Park Avenue in New York City at 5:00PM. We were crammed onto the median with cars whizzing by! Exciting but a bit on the dangerous side. I had never officiated at the lighting of a menorah in a public space!

Just overhead was the ethereal spire of the Empire State Building glowingly lit in blue and white and wrapped in mist! As with everything of import, there is a story surrounding the Hanukkah lighting of the Empire State Building. In 1997, nine-year-old Mallory Blair Greitzer wrote a letter to the management of the Empire State Building in Manhattan requesting that the color of the building’s tower lights be changed in honor of Hanukkah. This request was steadfastly rejected on the basis that the management’s policy limited the lights to honor each religion on one day per year. (The landmark’s lights are blue and white for Israel Independence Day.) Upon receiving this answer, Mallory asked her parents if she was Israeli. They explained that she was not, which prompted Mallory to write a second letter to Leona Helmsley, the management company’s owner. Mallory explained that she was not Israeli and therefore wondered what this policy meant for her and the other Jews in the country who were not Israeli. Against the advice of her staff, Helmsley granted Mallory’s request. In celebration of Hanukkah in 1997, the Empire State Building was (and each year thereafter) set alight with the colors blue and white. Grass roots campaigning at its best!

In homes and apartments everywhere, the wafting smell of latkes cooking in oil will flood kitchens and hallways and sufganiyot will be plentiful. If you are looking for new and exciting events for Hanukkah, check out the following in the New York City area:

Major League Dreidel/Target Tops Tournament on December 13th at 8:00PM
(This one I have written about in
my book)
Created in 2007, Major League Dreidel has been described as an “amped-up Hanukkah party and battle royale.” Players compete for the longest dreidel spin. This year hosts the first doubles tournament. Register at by Wednesday, December 12th. Proceeds of the event will benefit Playworks, a nonprofit whose mission is to end playground bullying. Even if you don’t register, take a look at the website and then head to Full Circle Bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to watch the tournament.

Matisyahu Festival of Light
Matisyahu, formerly Hasidic but always remaining a reggae star, performs his annual Hanukkah concert on December 15th at 9:00PM at Terminal 5. Find more Festival of Light concert dates around the country here.

We also want to give a shout out to Jewmongous is Sean Altman!
Fabulously funny, Jewmongous is an irreverently comedic concert taking place on December 15th at 8:30PM at Towne Crier Cafe in Pawling, New York. NOTE: This should not be mistaken for the Jewmongous show at City Winery on December 25th (more to follow on that one). 

Don’t dismiss Santacon!
There are always a few Hanukkah Harry(s) and Mrs. Hanukkah Harry(s) amongst the thousands of Santas that throng and cavort around New York City. According to the website, the New York happening is on December 15th with information to be revealed the night before.

A Chanukah Charol
Comedian Jackie Hoffman reenacts her one-woman retelling of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol using a semi-autobiographical and very Jewish lens. December 8th-December 29th at 8:00PM, New World Stages.

Fourth Annual Latke Festival
Chefs from 16 local restaurants—including A Voce, Balaboosta and Veselka—compete for first place latke on Monday December 10th at 6:30PM at BAM Peter Jay Sharp Building. Taste and judge for yourself! Profits from ticket sales will be donated to the Sylvia Center for childhood nutrition.

Gail Simmons: Latke Sizzle
Chef Gail Simmons talks with James Beard Foundation executive vice president Mitchell Davis about latkes and other types of Jewish food to be followed by a latke tasting and vodka pairing. December 11th at 8:15PM at the 92nd Street Y.

The Big Quiz Thing’s Christmahanukwanzayear Spectacular
Noah Tarnow is host at this holiday-themed multimedia quiz show at 7:00PM on Tuesday, December 11th and Wednesday, December 12th, at Littlefield in Brooklyn.

Joshua Eli Plaut, PhD, is the full-time Executive Director of American Friends of Rabin Medical, as well as the Rabbi of the Metropolitan Synagogue in Manhattan. His most recent book, A Kosher Christmas: ’Tis the Season to Be Jewish, is now available.

Hanukkah Stories by Yossi Brenner

Thursday, December 10, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Yoni Brenner’s Hanukkah shorts for The New Yorker here.

People of the Books Chanukah Contest Giveaway!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Looking for the perfect Chanukah gift? Jewlicious has a great book giveaway package right now, which includes:

1. Start-up Nation By Dan Senor , Saul Singer
2. The Monuments Men By Robert M. Edsel , Bret Witter
3. Sex, Drugs & Gefilte Fish By Shana Liebman
4. The Woman Who Named God By Charlotte Gordon
5. A Lucky Child By Thomas Buergenthal , Elie Wiesel

The contest is sponsored by Hachette Book Group:

Thanks to the fine folks at the Hachette Book Group, we have three sets of 5 Jewy books to give away in celebration of Chanukah! (No seriously, I have no idea how to spell חֲנֻכָּה in English)

Check out the contest here.