Mendel is always messing up. He uses too many onions in his latkes, mistakes sparklers for candles in his menorah, and accidentally leaves a tray of jelly donuts on the rabbi’s chair. But when the driver of the Mitzvah Mobile is sick, the rabbi confidently gives Mendel the job. Driving through town blaring Hanukkah music, passing out chocolate gelt, playing dreidel, and spreading the word about the rabbi’s Hanukkah party, Mendel is doing a great job … until he crashes the Mitzvah Mobile into a bridge. But when the television news team arrives on the scene, Mendel composes himself — standing tall like the shamash — and teaches everyone the story of Hanukkah. Miraculously, despite the crash, the menorah on top of the Mitzvah Mobile is still burning bright. Back at the synagogue Hanukkah party, the rabbi gives Mendel the honor of lighting the giant menorah in front of city hall.
The illustrations, though softly colored and appealing, depict a Jewish neighborhood that lacks dimension and diversity. That being said, the story exposes readers who do not live in urban areas with robust Jewish communities to the concept of a Mitzvah Mobile and a large menorah lighting at city hall. It also includes a bite-sized history of Hanukkah, instructions for playing dreidel, the lyrics to “Oh, Hanukkah,” and a latke recipe.
Rachel Kamin has been a synagogue librarian and Jewish educator for over twenty-five years and has worked at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, IL since 2008, currently serving as the Director of Lifelong Learning. A past chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee and past editor of Book Reviews for Children & Teens for the Association of Jewish Libraries News & Reviews, her articles and book reviews appear in numerous publications. She has been a member of the American Library Association’s Sophie Brody Book Award Committee since 2021.