The Best Hanukkah Ever

Bar­bara Dia­mond Goldin; Avi Katz, illus.
  • Review
By – December 16, 2011

At Hanukkah, the Knoo­dles fam­i­ly attempts to fol­low their rabbi’s advice, It’s hard to give the per­fect gift, one that will be trea­sured for­ev­er.” Bub­by Sadie gives lit­tle Yekl a pick­le bar­rel, Mama Pearl gives Papa Jack a straw hat with yel­low daisies, Papa gives Mama a red gui­tar, Shay­na gives Bub­by a curl­ing iron (even though she hard­ly has any hair to curl!), and Yekl gives his sis­ter Shay­na jump­ing tree frogs. Every­one is mis­er­able until the rab­bi clar­i­fies his advice: the per­fect gift should be a trea­sure to the per­son who receives it, not to the per­son who gives it. The fam­i­ly mem­bers all exchange their gifts with each oth­er and every­one is hap­py, mak­ing it the best Hanukkah ever.” 

The illus­tra­tions are won­der­ful­ly expres­sive, bright, col­or­ful, and full of humor and life. How­ev­er, they depict a con­tem­po­rary fam­i­ly with Mama sport­ing cow­boy boots, pony-tailed Papa rid­ing a motor­cy­cle, and Shayna’s mouth full of braces. This all seems incon­sis­tent with the text. Young chil­dren today, like Shay­na and Yekl in the sto­ry, would not have a Bub­by named Sadie from the Old Coun­try who longs for a pick­le bar­rel— she would be their great-grand­moth­er (or their great-great-grand­moth­er), not their grand­moth­er. And their par­ents, Pearl and Jack, wouldn’t speak with Yid­dish inspired expres­sions and into­na­tion. It seems more like­ly that the Knoo­dle fam­i­ly would be con­tem­po­raries of the fam­i­ly depict­ed in Bar­bara Dia­mond Goldin’s charm­ing book, A Moun­tain of Blintzes, which takes place on a farm in the Catskills in the 1920’s. Today’s read­ers won’t relate to these char­ac­ters, who are a few gen­er­a­tions behind, and will unlike­ly be charmed by their silli­ness. Grade Lev­el: PK – 2.

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.

Discussion Questions