"A little girl celebrates the eight nights of Hanukkah with her family, and each night brings a surprise — although not the one she’s hoping for. The tone is set early on: 'I lit the shamash and the first candle. Grandma said the blessing. Then we feasted on crispy potato latkes with sweet applesauce.' Her grandmother gets a gift of candied cranberries; the little girl, wanting a pet, instead gets a lamp. Each night the family lights another candle, eats more latkes (made with various ingredients and toppings), and the grandmother and girl each open a gift. At the end, the grandmother combines all her gifts to make the girl’s favorite treat — kugel (noodle casserole, traditionally eaten during Passover). Later, we see that each of the child’s gifts relates to the surprise she receives on the last night: a new pet. Bright, cheerful illustrations pair with the sweet story." — Washington Post on Parenting Blog—Blog
"Follow this spunky first-person narrator as she celebrates the eight nights of Hanukkah with extended family. Each night she notices what Grandma receives - 'a shiny baking dish,' 'a teeny tiny bottle of vanilla' - and hopes her present might prove to be a pet, maybe a turtle with a shiny shell or a teeny tiny hamster. Instead, her gifts are a metal lamp, a ceramic bowl and an odd plant. To help assuage the little girl's disappointment, Grandma asks for her help in creating a special dish from all the culinary gifts. No sooner is the yummy kugel pulled from the oven than the doorbell rings - and there is a pet no one could have imagined! This playful Hanukkah tale warrants praise for two things in particular: a mystery pet adopted from the animal shelter and a modern Grandma who defies ageist stereotypes with her chic haircut and sparkly scarf." — Washington Post—Magazine
"It's Hanukkah time, and the family gathers every night to light candles, open presents, and enjoy a different
flavor of latkes. Grandma receives some interesting gifts (dried cranberries, chocolate chips, cinnamon
sticks, and vanilla), but the unnamed protagonist's gifts are very strange indeed (a metal lamp, a
thermometer, a spray bottle, and a ceramic bowl). By the last night, it's clear that Grandma has received
ingredients to make a cranberry–chocolate chip kugel (recipe appended); but the young girl is confused
and disappointed. However, while she helps Grandma cook, the rest of the family busily assembles her real
gift: an iguana and habitat. Kudos to Everin for finding a unique take on Hanukkah, no small feat given the
proliferation of titles about this celebration. Ashdown's cheerful, cartoon-style art features googly-eyed
characters usually depicted sitting on the couch. Careful observers will note that the girl's thought bubbles
reveal what she would really like (a kitten, puppy, turtle, etc.), while Grandpa's socks reflect these wishes.
Not essential, but certainly fun."―Booklist—Journal
10 great holiday-season books to enjoy with your little ones
The season of all seasons is upon us. And these children's books about Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and wintertime are just what we need to slow down, cuddle up and entertain and enlighten our little ones.
"Kugel for Hanukkah?" by Gretchen M. Everin; illustrated by Rebecca Ashdown (Kar-Ben)
A little girl celebrates the eight nights of Hanukkah with her family, and each night brings a surprise — although not the one she's hoping for. The tone is set early on: "I lit the shamash and the first candle. Grandma said the blessing. Then we feasted on crispy potato latkes with sweet applesauce." Her grandmother gets a gift of candied cranberries; the little girl, wanting a pet, instead gets a lamp. Each night the family lights another candle, eats more latkes (made with various ingredients and toppings), and the grandmother and girl each open a gift. At the end, the grandmother combines all her gifts to make the girl's favorite treat — kugel (noodle casserole, traditionally eaten during Passover). Later, we see that each of the child's gifts relates to the surprise she receives on the last night: a new pet. Bright, cheerful illustrations pair with the sweet story.
"My Family Celebrates Kwanzaa," by Lisa Bullard; illustrated by Constanza Basaluzzo (Lerner)
This festive, engaging book, organized into informational chapters, begins: "Hi! I'm Kevin. We're getting ready for Kwanzaa." From there, he explains how his family prepares for the holiday, followed by definitions of key terms, a history of the holiday and how the family celebrates. He says: "Somebody new lights the candles each night. I watch closely so I'm ready for my turn." Back pages provide further details, including components of the celebration and explanations, such as "Families celebrate Kwanzaa in many ways. Some families drink juice from a special unity cup." A question-and-answer page and glossary offer expanded learning.
"Barnyard Bubbe's Hanukkah," by Joni Klein-Higger and Barbara Sharf; illustrated by Monica Gutierrez (Kar-Ben)
This short board book combines Hanukkah, counting and guessing. For seven nights, a different animal knocks on Barnyard Bubbe's door, letting her know it left her an item. We see only the animals' foot as it knocks, and we see the word for the sound it makes. "KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK/On the first night of Hanukkah, what did Barnyard Bubbe see?/One sack of meal./ 'Oh, my. Who has left this for me?' " The next night, she receives two cups of oil, and so forth, until the eighth night, when she combines all the ingredients to make latkes. On the last two pages, she and each of the animals hold a plate with the latkes. It's a fun read-aloud, and little ones will enjoy guessing which animal makes each of the sounds.
"Grover's Hanukkah Party," by Joni Kibort Sussman; illustrated by Tom Leigh (Kar-Ben)
A smiling, familiar face from Sesame Street leads readers in counting the many parts of Hanukkah — all of which add up to eight. "Hanukkah is the holiday of 8," reads a page, with the numbers one through eight brightly depicted underneath. Eight also refers to the number of items on Grover's grocery list, the time for the party to start, the number of friends and so on. Various Sesame Street characters make appearances in this short yet upbeat holiday book.
"The traditional Ashkenazic Hanukkah treat of latkes is about to be replaced. The youngest sibling in an observant Jewish family narrates the family ritual of lighting the shamash, or helper candle, and then adding one more candle for each night of Hanukkah until, finally, eight are burning brightly. Blessings are recited and gifts are exchanged. The young narrator would like a cuddly animal but receives an odd assortment of presents. Or are they really that odd? At the same time, Grandma is opening an apron, a cookbook, and oven mitts. Eating a wide assortment of vegetable-filled latkes does not quite make the long-haired youngest sib happy until the final reveal—make that two! Grandma and her cooking utensils and ingredients result in a delicious if not traditional treat: 'Cranberry Chocolate Chip Hanukkah Kugel.' The recipe is included at the end of the story. Oh, and that wish for a pet is also fulfilled. It is not especially cuddly, but it will be well loved. Everin's tale is entertaining and happy and will make a pleasant addition to holiday book shelves. Ashdown's colorful illustrations feature a googly-eyed family and a menorah depicting each night of the holiday. The historical setting of Hanukkah is assumed. Presents for Hanukkah can be both surprising and perfect."―Kirkus—Journal
"Each night of Hanukkah, our young narrator receives a gift that makes little sense on its own: 'a hard metal lamp,' 'a squeezy-squirty spray bottle.' It all adds up to a (living) surprise, while the family members' gifts to Grandma add up to a different surprise that gives the former its name. (Hint: those weary of latkes may be relieved to find an appended recipe that matches the book's title.) The implied guessing game should keep readers turning pages, while increasingly creative latke varieties after each candle-lighting add some eight-nights-is-a-lot humor. Pastel-toned illustrations create a sense of happy family celebration."—The Horn Book Magazine—Journal
"This pleasant Hanukkah book won't explain the holiday to newbies, but those in the know will enjoy following a child through a familiar experience. As each night of Hanukkah arrives, the narrator and her family light the candles and eat a different kind of latke. Each night her grandmother receives some specialty foods, while the child receives a series of oddly mysterious items rather than the pet she desperately wants. Finally, on the last night, there is no present for her. She and her grandmother enter the kitchen and use the grandmother's presents to prepare a kugel. When her present finally arrives—a pet iguana (all of her other gifts were objects to help care for it)—she is delighted and names it Kugel. The text is concise, the child's voice is authentic, the story is plausible, and the foreshadowed ending is satisfying. The tale reads aloud well and effectively depicts Hanukkah as simply part of life. Ashdown's illustrations are brightly colored and appear to be mixed-media, with some watercolor washes and texturing that looks to be provided with crayon or pastel. The characters have simple, round faces with large eyes and noses created with single lines. Grandma is slim and hip, with short, brown hair, skinny glasses, and jeans. The family presents as white, with the male characters sporting yarmulkes. VERDICT This is a sweet addition for public and Jewish libraries looking for a fun read to bulk up Hanukkah collections."—School Library Journal—Journal
“Kugel for Hanukkah?” by Gretchen M. Everin. Illustrated by Rebecca Ashdown. (Kar-Ben Publishing)
A wide-eyed animal-loving young girl celebrates Hanukkah with her family, hoping for the gift of a pet, such as a puppy, kitten, bird or hamster. Instead, on the first night, she receives a hard metal lamp. On the second night, she gets a “strange kind of thermometer.” On the third night, she gets a squirty spray bottle. Things are becoming confusing! To add to the puzzlement, her grandma is receiving odd gifts, as well: chocolate chips, cinnamon sticks, a tiny bottle of vanilla and candied cranberries. As the clues grow, children will have fun trying to guess what the eighth night will bring. For Grandma, it turns out to be the ingredients for a family favorite holiday treat: Cranberry Chocolate Chip Hanukkah Kugel. (Recipe included.) By the last night, the delighted little girl has received all she needs for her new pet — an unexpected iguana!
There is a lot to this simple story for young children. Besides the eight candles, there are the eight different gifts to count, along with eight different kinds of latkes served (potato, carrot, turnip, beet, etc.) The illustrations are charming and reflect a newer trend in Jewish children’s books regarding realistic depictions of grandparents. Here, Grandma is not sporting gray hair or wearing pearls and a dress, but appears to be a slim, hip-looking 60-something with a purple-striped turtleneck and leggings. All the male characters are wearing kippot, which also serves as a teachable moment in many homes. A fun and appealing new Hanukkah story to share with animal-loving children.
Purchase on Amazon here.—Magazine
"Each night of Hanukkah, Grandma makes a different latke (sweet potato, beet, carrot). And each night also dashes the hopes of the young narrator for a Hanukkah pet; instead, she gets . . . a strange thermometer? A ceramic bowl? Her grandmother similarly receives gifts that seem to be part of a bigger plan: cinnamon sticks, chocolate, candied cranberries. On the eighth night, all is explained. The girl's gifts are the accessories necessary for a new pet iguana, while grandmother has everything to make a new variation of kugel—the girl's favorite dish and, henceforth, the iguana's name. With cheery, identically composed cartoon spreads leading up to the reveal (the family gathers on the sofa on at left, while the narrator unwraps gifts by the menorah at right), Everin and Ashdown build the suspense for their holiday mystery. A recipe for cranberry chocolate chip kugel is included."—Publishers Weekly—Journal
"A young girl is mystified by the unusual gifts she receives for Chanukah, while her grandma receives the ingredients to make a kugel. Each night, the mystery deepens for the young girl with gifts of a bowl, spray bottle and thermometer. On the last night, the doorbell rings with a special delivery — a pet iguana. She names her iguana Kugel." — The Detroit Jewish News—Website