The Miss­ing Let­ters: A Drei­del Story

Renee Lond­ner; Iry­na Bod­naruk, illus.

  • Review
By – November 9, 2017

One night, after the drei­del mak­er leaves his shop, the let­ters Nun, Hey, and Shin con­spire to hide the sound­ly sleep­ing Gimelssince the Gimels are everyone’s favorite Hebrew let­ter and they always win. Think about it,” says one Shin to the oth­er let­ters, with­out the Gimels, the rules of the game would have to change.” When the drei­del mak­er and his appren­tice arrive in the morn­ing to fin­ish carv­ing the wood­en drei­dels and add the Hebrew let­ters, the Gimels are nowhere to be found. But then the Nuns, Heys, and Shins over­hear the drei­del mak­er explain­ing how impor­tant and spe­cial each of the let­ters are, and the next night they put the Gimels back where they belong. The drei­del mak­er is able to com­plete the drei­dels, with each let­ter in its prop­er place, just in time for Hanukkah.

The high­ly styl­ized, dig­i­tal car­toon illus­tra­tions are col­or­ful and live­ly, although they might strain cred­i­bil­i­ty. When the let­ters come alive, they are drawn as lit­tle blob-like crea­tures with large expres­sive eyes (some wear­ing glass­es), col­or­ful T‑shirts, and bird­like feet. Once affixed to the drei­dels, they are just plain let­ters. Read­ers will also have to sus­pend dis­be­lief when the Gimels all sleep through the entire two days and two nights of the sto­ry while the oth­er let­ters are wide awake. A brief expla­na­tion of the Hanukkah sto­ry is inte­grat­ed into the text and instruc­tions for play­ing drei­del are append­ed. While the book might appeal to those look­ing for fresh, new titles for the hol­i­day, it’s unlike­ly to stand out in the already over­crowd­ed Hanukkah bookshelf.

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.

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