Judah is frustrated by his baby sister Hannah. She knocks over his block tower, spits out her food, and follows him around. On the first night of Hanukkah, Bubbe gives Judah a Maccabee shield and teaches him about another Judah who lived a long time ago and protected the Jewish people. Judah carries his shield everywhere and does his best to protect his baby sister from danger. On the last day of Hanukkah, Dad takes Judah and Hannah to the doctor for their annual check-ups. At first Judah doesn’t want to get a shot, but Dad and the doctor convince him: “… a shot is just like a shield … It protects us from sickness.” Dad also explains that “Hannah’s too young for a shot. But if you get the shot, you’ll be protected. You won’t be able to get a new sickness, and so she won’t be able to catch it from you — keeping you both healthy!” So, just like his namesake, Judah is the best and bravest brother ever, getting his shot on his non-shield arm (and only crying a little).
The soft-edged, bright, and cheery paintings depict a contemporary family joyously celebrating Hanukkah with candles, latkes, dreidels, and presents — but also in their every-day lives. It’s refreshing to see Dad taking the children to the pediatrician and the doctor portrayed as a woman of color. Additional information about the Maccabees is appended along with information on the benefits of vaccinations. While the connection to Hanukkah is slight, the story can be enjoyed year-round to help young readers gain some courage before their shots. It can also be used to discuss Pirkei Avot 4:1: “Who is a hero, a gibor? The one who conquers his own fears.”
Rachel Kamin is the Director of the Joseph and Mae Gray Cultural & Learning Center at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, Illinois. A past chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, Rachel is currently the co-editor of Book Reviews for Children & Teens for the Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter. She holds a BA in history from Grinnell College and a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Michigan.