This beautifully illustrated handbook about Hanukkah, its rituals, and its historical origins is ostensibly for the picture book audience but can be enjoyed by the entire family. As expected, the story of the Maccabees, the miracle of the oil, and the blessings are all included — as well as Hanukkah songs and music, recipes, crafts, and instructions for playing dreidel. But what makes this book unique are the eight reflections that appear opposite lavishly illustrated spreads, encouraging a shared reading experience. The brief reflections are tied to parts of the Hanukkah story, and the suggestion is to read, and then discuss, one reflection each night while gathered to light the candles. Such discussions can show how past events relate to issues today’s families face. Swarner’s charmingly stylized people and scenes, mostly painted in soft tones of sapphire and amethyst, evoke feelings of peace, calmness, and serenity.
While the publisher recommends this book for readers ages 4 to 10, this book is a wonderful resource for families to use together.
Susan Kantor was a senior writer/editor for Girl Scouts of the USA, a children’s book editor, and a past judge for the National Jewish Book Awards in the illustrated children’s book category. She is a writer and a docent at the Rubin Museum in New York City, where she leads public and private tours.