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.