The cleverness and creativity of the title of this new picture book may be reason enough to pluck it off the shelf and settle down for a session of reading aloud. Laura Gehl capitalizes on the recent llama craze in children’s literature, adding a Jewish spin and a sense of pure llama-licious fun.
Some of Hanukkah’s most salient features are crystallized and presented in short, perfectly scanning, and flawlessly rhyming triplets; light/night/write, spin/win/grin, sweet/eat/treat, and several other combinations evoke a light-hearted celebratory tone. There are no Maccabean armies here, no ruling tyrants, no assimilation fears, no rebellious leaders, not even a miracle of eight days duration to marvel at. This is not meant to be a Hanukkah book that stands alone and educates children about the deeper meaning of the holiday. More than compensating for these absences, though, is an extensive “Author’s Note” which addresses all of these issues as well as explaining Hanukkah’s customs so parents can discuss them knowledgeably with young children and this well-written, comprehensive note can certainly be part of the read-aloud session. The text and the art supplement heavier offerings with a delightful sense of fun, showing smiling animals drawn with simple lines and vivid colors, enjoying the holiday and enticing readers to join them in scenes of Hanukkah joy. The snowy outdoors with a cozy house, complete with glowing menorah in the window, winsomely beckons children and invites them in to share a hearty helping of colorful Hanukkah delight.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.