Like a Maccabee

Bar­bara Bietz; Ani­ta White, illus.
  • Review
By – November 11, 2011

Ten-year-old Ben is thrilled when his soc­cer team has made the finals for the league cham­pi­onship, but con­cerned about Travis, the rival team’s best defend­er who enjoys bul­ly­ing Ben at school and on the field. When Ben turns to his par­ents for sup­port, they are too busy prepar­ing for their big fam­i­ly Hanukkah cel­e­bra­tion and also pre­oc­cu­pied with Ben’s grand­fa­ther who is mov­ing into their house­hold. Since Ben is now forced to share his room with his grand­fa­ther, he can­not ignore him! 

As Ben begins to lis­ten to his grandfather’s sto­ries each night dur­ing Hanukkah, his frus­tra­tion turns to admi­ra­tion, for despite their age dif­fer­ence, Ben real­izes that he and his grand­fa­ther share many sim­i­lar­i­ties, includ­ing a love of sports. Ben’s grand­fa­ther becomes the inspi­ra­tion for his school assign­ment for Fam­i­ly Cel­e­bra­tion Day” and guides Ben to find the con­fi­dence he is lack­ing to be a great team mem­ber. Through his new rela­tion­ship with his grand­fa­ther, Ben under­stands that play­ing like a Maccabee”-being strong and doing your best, is the key to win­ning, espe­cial­ly against a bully! 

Using the back­drop of the Hanukkah hol­i­day, the author real­is­ti­cal­ly cap­tures the chal­lenges of peer pres­sure and pos­i­tive ways to over­come adver­si­ty against a bul­ly. Writ­ten for chil­dren of all back­grounds, the sto­ry of Hanukkah is retold through the nar­ra­tion of the grand­fa­ther. Black and white car­toon-like pen illus­tra­tions add a com­i­cal flair and com­ple­ment Ben’s age appro­pri­ate and com­ic mus­ings. Direc­tions to play the drei­del game and a recipe for latkes are includ­ed at the end of the book. An impor­tant addi­tion to the mea­ger amount of Jew­ish-themed ear­ly chap­ter books, this heart­warm­ing nov­el marks a promis­ing debut for this first time author. Kids will enjoy this book at Hanukkah time or through­out the year. Ages 8 – 10.

Read­ing Guide

Debra Gold has been a children’s librar­i­an for over 20 years in the Cuya­hoga Coun­ty Pub­lic Library Sys­tem. An active mem­ber of the ALA, she has served on many com­mit­tees includ­ing the Calde­cott, New­bery and Batchelder committees.

Discussion Questions