Emanuel and the Hanukkah Rescue

Hei­di Smith Hyde
  • Review
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.

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