We thought we’d kick off Eight Nights of Sto­ries series with a Hanukkah clas­sic — but scroll down, there’s plen­ty more! Click on book images for JBC reviews and links to pur­chase each book through Ama­zon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.
What’s Eight Nights of Sto­ries all about? Read Nat’s explana­to­ry blog post!

Her­shel and the Hanukkah Gob­lins
by Eric Kim­mel; Tri­na Schart Hyman, illus.

On the eve of the first night of Chanukah, leg­endary joke­ster Her­shel of Ostropol reach­es a dark­ened vil­lage where gob­lins plague the vil­lagers like the Grinch on Whoville. Every­one knows that gob­lins abhor light and mer­ri­ment, (just ask Cur­die,) but instead of retreat­ing to caves in the moun­tains, these beast­ly crea­tures have set­tled in the vil­lage syn­a­gogue and snuffed out Chanukah through­out the town. Ever the unlike­ly hero, Her­shel resolves to stay in the haunt­ed syn­a­gogue, cel­e­brat­ing the hol­i­day and out­wit­ting the increas­ing­ly fear­some gob­lins night after night — but can he save Chanukah once and for all?

Pro­lif­ic children’s author and folk­lorist Eric Kim­mel has writ­ten a trove’s worth of delight­ful Chanukah books for chil­dren, but Her­shel and the Hanukkah Gob­lins is his Calde­cott Hon­or-win­ning mas­ter­piece. The charm and sus­pense of this Jew­ish incar­na­tion of The Brave Lit­tle Tai­lor” are matched by impec­ca­ble illus­tra­tions that cap­ture the humor and spook­i­ness of the sto­ry all at once, and the tale itself is sure to engage young read­ers year after year.

Chances are your kids have already read (and loved) Her­shel. The mag­ic need­n’t stop there. Mar­i­lyn Hirschs The Rab­bi and the Twen­ty-Nine Witch­es is a great read for the full moon, any month. This time­less, utter­ly charm­ing book is actu­al­ly based on a less­er-known tale from Tal­mud, in which a cun­ning rab­bi sets out to rid a neigh­bor­ing cave of twen­ty-nine of the mean­est, scari­est, ugli­est, wickedest witch­es that ever were.” Though undoubt­ed­ly a chil­dren’s book, The Rab­bi and the Twen­ty-Nine Witch­es holds enough intrigue and sophis­ti­ca­tion in the nar­ra­tive and illus­tra­tions to cap­ti­vate my teenage stu­dents when­ev­er I bring this book into class!

Of course, that does­n’t mean that advanc­ing read­ers should be left reread­ing the pic­ture books of their youth — nor should they aban­don tales of whim­sy, either. Janusz Kor­czak, now remem­bered pri­mar­i­ly as the trag­ic hero of the War­saw Ghet­to, left a lit­er­ary lega­cy of mag­i­cal sto­ries that were huge­ly pop­u­lar through­out Poland from the late 1920s on. Kor­czak tru­ly under­stood chil­dren and the tran­si­tions they face, and wield­ed his mas­ter­ful sto­ry­telling to help his young read­ers under­stand ques­tions of respon­si­bil­i­ty and empow­er­ment. Thank­ful­ly, a cou­ple of his works for read­ers 10 and up have been trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish in the last decade, elic­it­ing com­par­isons to the adven­tures Peter Pan and Alice in Won­der­land. King Matt the First cer­tain­ly holds ele­ments of both, plus a hearty dose of Pip­pi of the South Seas and a dash of The Chron­i­cles of Narnia.

After the kids are asleep…

Start read­ing The Golem and the Jin­ni by Helene Weck­er. You’ll thank me for it.

Yes, this is a book I’d rec­om­mend any night of the year, but it fits into the con­ti­nu­ity of mag­ic and mys­ti­cism that flows through­out tonight’s list. The jinn is a crea­ture of fire, which I think nice­ly reflects the theme of a small flame’s resis­tance against dark­ness and evil in Her­shel and the Hanukkah Gob­lins. But besides all that, you’ll find read­ing each chap­ter of The Golem and the Jin­ni like a present to your­self for every night. Go on, you deserve it!