One night, after the dreidel maker leaves his shop, the letters Nun, Hey, and Shin conspire to hide the soundly sleeping Gimels—since 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 is the Director of the Joseph and Mae Gray Cultural & Learning Center at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, Illinois. A past chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, Rachel is currently the co-editor of Book Reviews for Children & Teens for the Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter. She holds a BA in history from Grinnell College and a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Michigan.