Eight Can­dles and a Tree

Simone Bloom; Nathan Bri­an Bar­ber, illus.
  • Review
By – March 30, 2015

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.

Ellen G. Cole, a retired 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.

Discussion Questions