The Eight Knights of Hanukkah

Leslie Kim­mel­man, Galia Bern­stein (illus.)

  • Review
By – November 30, 2020

There is no short­age of illus­trat­ed chil­dren’s books for Hanukkah. Every now and then one ris­es above the crowd because of its cre­ative approach, dis­tinc­tive humor, or all-around charm. Such a book is The Eight Knights of Hanukkah—with its quirky and love­able male and female mul­ti­cul­tur­al knights, their lady moth­er, and — of course — a das­tard­ly drag­on deter­mined to derail the hol­i­day cel­e­bra­tion. The knights are charged with a valiant quest. They are asked to right the world’s wrongs in time for the feast to be held on the last night of Hanukkah at which all the can­dles will be lit.

Lady Sadie has sent her eight knight­ly chil­dren on a mis­sion — to ride out into the world on their trusty steeds and per­form deeds of awe­some kind­ness and stu­pen­dous brav­ery,” includ­ing the tam­ing of the fear­some drag­on who is threat­en­ing the joy of the upcom­ing Hanukkah party.

Sir Alex’s mis­sion is to craft a new drei­del for a boy whose own drei­del has been scorched by the drag­on’s flames. Sir Gabriel res­cues a damsel dis­tressed by an enor­mous pile of pota­toes need­ing to be peeled and fried into latkes. (A help­ful knight with a pota­to peel­er is a won­drous sight, indeed!) Oth­er suc­cess­ful knight­ly quests include pick­ing apples for apple­sauce before the drag­on’s breath turns them into baked apples while still on the tree, deliv­ery of chick­en soup to the sick, vis­it­ing the lone­ly, pol­ish­ing the cas­tle until it sparkles, and bak­ing a batch of yum­my, sticky suf­ganiy­ot to replace those which have been gob­bled up by the hun­gry drag­on. Sir Isabel­la and Sir Ruglelach find their mis­sion the most chal­leng­ing of all. Catch­ing a dread­ful drag­on is no easy task, even for brave and daunt­less knights. The dread­ed drag­on, though, when final­ly found, turns out not to be so fear­some after all. It’s just a baby drag­on named Rosie who, with the help of her flam­ing breath, helps light the Hanukkah can­dles and par­tic­i­pates in the cel­e­bra­tion, high­light­ing the shin­ing val­ues of kind­ness and car­ing which are at the heart of this endear­ing tale.

The illus­tra­tions reflect and enhance the sto­ry’s intrin­sic humor. The illus­tra­tor, using sub­tle, rich col­ors depicts the knights, the towns­folk, and the ani­mals with friend­ly, expres­sive faces which reflect their good­ness and their desire to make the world a bet­ter place for all. Small touch­es such as an apron sport­ing the phrase Kis­seth the Cook, a horse car­ry­ing the drei­del’s let­ter shin in its teeth (shin is the Hebrew word for tooth), and a win­some lit­tle drag­on evoke smiles at every turn of the page.

This high­ly rec­om­mend­ed book includes an after­word detail­ing the his­to­ry of Hanukkah, some of its major tra­di­tions, and, in the spir­it of the sto­ry, a clev­er­ly word­ed reminder to would-be young knights to remem­ber to find deeds of awe­some kind­ness” in the king­doms of their own.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

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