This bright, happy picture book handles the Hanukkah-Christmas dilemma from an interesting point of view. Sophie, a child of a mixed marriage, celebrates both while neighbor Tommy enjoys only Christmas. He discovers home observances for Hanukkah with Sophie’s family. He sees her as lucky not because she gets two holidays, but because Hanukkah lasts eight days and Christmas lasts only one! We share with Tommy as he learns how grand it is to light candles, eat latkes, play dreidel and exchange gifts day after day. Sophie’s window menorah belonged to her great-great-grandmother; her own is age-appropriate sparkle. The prayer shows a few words of transliteration. Tommy and Sophie swap descriptions of their Christmas traditions at home: his tree, presents, poems, carols, roast; her tree, wearing pajamas all day, pancake breakfast. No one mentions going to church. They find commonality in special foods, lights, songs and gifts. The bottom line of each holiday is how wonderful it is to celebrate together. The art frolics. The layout stands out with words denoting sounds or special sights floating above the text in large font. Everyone shows interest and respect. Sophie, not the parents, explains the reasons behind the customs to her friend; Jewish identity internalized without fanfare. Recommended for ages 4 – 6.
Eight Candles and a Tree
Ellen G. Cole, the librarian of the Levine Library of Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, is a past judge of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards and a past chairperson of that committee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excellence in Jewish Children’s Literature. Ellen is the recipient of two major awards for contribution to Judaic Librarianship, the Fanny Goldstein Merit Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroeder Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries of Southern California. She is on the board of AJLSC.
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