Becca Reads


Hanukkah Books

 I've always admired parents who rotate the toys.  You know, the ones who only keep, say, one third of the toys out at a time, so the kids actually play with them, and then when they start getting bored, out come the next third and it's like new toys all over again?  At least, I think that's how it's supposed to work, and it sounds admirable, though, in fact, I'm not sure I know anyone who actually does it.  Oh no, that's not true, M and E's old daycare provider did it, and she was Admirable, at least very much so in her own mind, but we parted with her on bad terms, so maybe the rotation thing isn't all it's cracked up to be, though, then again, the toys had nothing to do with the bad terms...

Anyway, the only realm in which I have ever rotated is the Hanukkah books.  And you can't really call it rotated if there's nothing to rotate with, because really what it is is putting them away from about two weeks after Hanukkah till maybe two weeks before, because we have--thanks to doting grandparents and Jewish friends in No-Longer-Red State with almost-grown-up kids--what is probably the world's largest and most beloved collection of Hanukkah books, and there is nothing more boring than reading Hanukkah books--except reading Hanukkah books in July!  (Is it like that with Christmas books?  God knows, the No-Longer-Red State Capital City Suburb library had the world's largest collection of Christmas books, every single one of which I believe I refused to check out, because while I am highly ecumenical on many things, and, yes, we have checked out Barbie books, I simply do not do Christmas books, so I wouldn't know.)

Anyway, I thought I would offer my opinion of the Hanukkah books worth reading (or rereading, as the case may be), which is to say: my favorites.

Sammy Spider's First Hanukkah.  I love Sammy Spider (we also have Passover, and either Shabbat or Rosh Hashanah, I'm thinking Shabbat)  (you know, I've been clicking on frequently these days, and they list the top five bestsellers of the hour on the home page, and The Gourmet Cookbook and the new Joy are always up there, but today #1 is Don't Let the Pigeons Drive the Bus!  Go figure.).  Sammy is--duh--a spider who lives with his mom in the Shapiros' house and learns about the holidays by watching Josh and his parents celebrate.  These are really about holiday practices, not so much beliefs, and they have bright colors and not a lot of words and are great for toddlers, though my kids still love them, albeit perhaps sentimentally.

When Mindy Saved Hanukkah.  Another tradition one, though it nicely weaves in the Hanukkah  story as brave little Mindy fights Ahaseurus the mean cat to get the candle.  The schtick here is that Mindy's family, the Kleins, are tiny people who live behind the wall of the Eldridge Street Synagogue in the Lower East Side, ca. tenement days.  I love books about tiny people, from Mistress Masham's Repose to The Borrowers and even The Littles, and in this one Mindy is brave and tough and the denouement features a piece of herring.  Fun pictures too, with bottle cap lamps and Mindy scaling the ark with the aid of a paper clip.

Judah Who Always Said No.  Hanukkah is a tough one for the not-quite-not-Zionist pacifists among us, who don't want to buy into the nationalist rhetoric with which the minor holiday of Hanukkah has been imbued (it's not all counter-Christmas).  Then again, we can always go with resistance to tyranny and oppression, which is our preferred ideology.  When we first got Judah, I was not so happy with the indoctrination aspects.  Then I started going into preschool to do Hanukkah.  I went to preschool and kindergarten and afterschool to do Hanukkah more times than I can count--and then we moved to Blue State and were no longer the only Jews around, or at least, the only Jews in preschool, kindergarten, and afterschool, and I didn't have to do Hanukkah any more.  But you haven't done Hanukkah with little kids unless you've led them in a rousing chorus of "No!" as Judah resists his mother, his father, his brothers, and, eventually, the evil Greek king.  There is even a battle scene with elephants and bows and arrows.  I'm a convert--to the book.


  • I've actually been searching for one of our Christmas books and can't find it. So, no, we not only don't rotate them, I don't have any idea where they are! There aren't many, either...I don't much like holiday books anyway...and then I guess the culture being what it is there are lots of books with Christmas in them that aren't necessarily "Christmas books" so there's less of a need for them. I'm mulling around my next column (due up over the holidays) so this was timely. Thanks.

    By Blogger Libby, at 8:21 AM  

  • I rotate toys! And I rotate books -- only Halloween, Christmas and Hanukkah.

    By Blogger Dawn, at 9:52 AM  

  • We have Sammy Spider's Purim, which we like because it says absolutely nothing about the beliefs of the holiday. LG asked to hear the story from the Megillah once, and was so upset by Vashti's casting out that we never got any farther. (Just as well, really, since the story doesn't get any less problematic after that.)

    The most gorgeous Hanukkah book I've ever seen is Amy Ehrlich and Ori Sherman's The Story of Hanukkah. It's out of print, but available for inter-library loan in your neck of the woods.

    By Blogger Phantom Scribbler, at 11:05 AM  

  • I do the same with our Hanukkah books, and you just reminded me that I should get them out! But I think our copy of "When Mindy Saved Hanukkah," which I love, isn't with the rest of them, but is buried with a stack in J's room. Now I'll go look for it tonight.

    My mom just picked up "Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins" at the store, so we'll try that one this year. J's had a couple of stories about Herschel of Ostropol at Hebrew School, so he'll like that.

    By Anonymous Genevieve, at 11:12 AM  

  • I think these are all our Hanukkah books:

    By Anonymous Genevieve, at 12:25 PM  

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