April 20, 2012
Emanuel and his family are part of a group of Jews that have been forced to flee Portugal and have come to live in the whaling community of eighteenth-century New Bedford, Massachusetts. While his father runs a whaling supply shop on the wharf, nine-year-old Emanuel prefers to listen to the exciting seafaring yarns of the sailors. He wishes his own ti mid dad were more like the brave whale-chasing Captain Henshaw. Even in America, the land of the free, his father is too fearful to practice Judaism openly. When his father refuses, as usual, to light the Hanukkah candles one winter, Emanuel decides to stow away on Captain Henshaw’s ship. The ship runs into a bad storm and, even aft er the storm ends, there is still danger. The ship is adrift at sea with no shoreline lights to show the way back. Then comes an eighth-night-of-Hanukkah miracle! Emanuel’s father has convinced all the Jews in town to light menorahs in their windows and the blazing lights guide the sailors safely home. It’s a good historical adventure story although the context of exactly what happened to chase the Jews from Portugal and make them so fearful is not explained and will not be understood by many young readers. In addition, though the text refers more than once to whale-oil menorahs, the impressionistic illustrations seem to show ordinary wax candles in the menorahs. Recommended for ages 5 – 9.