As families across the world prepare to begin their Hanukkah celebrations tonight, I have to be honest with you all: I didn’t know actually the meaning behind Hanukkah until recently. I realized this when someone I know told me they thought Hanukkah had something to do with Hitler, and though I was 99.9% sure they were wrong, I hadn’t educated myself enough to explain their error. Obviously, I realized I had a problem, and so I began to educate myself. As I learned of the history of the Maccabean Revolt and the traditions surrounding this holiday, I realized how important it is to expose our children to holidays that we don’t celebrate.
Though I am not Jewish, I believe it’s important to give our children an understanding of holidays and celebrations that other children in their lives may be taking part in. They will be better equipped to understand and accept classmates, cousins, and playdate partners with different religious upbringings when they have been exposed to these holidays and celebrations in their own homes. They will also be better equipped to correct misinformation than I was in my situation.
These eight books all offer great explanations behind Hanukkah traditions and history, giving young readers an understanding of what the holidays might look like in other homes. Any one of them would be great for any family celebrating Hanukkah, or for families who want to introduce their children to The Festival of Lights.
Antlers With Candles by Chris Barash, Illustrated by Melissa Iwai
In Antlers With Candles we follow a little boy on his first Hanukkah. He doesn’t quite understand all the curious objects he discovers around his home. His dad discovers the mess he has made and cleans up while explaining what the menorah, latkes, and dreidels are all for. This is the perfect introduction to Hanukkah for babies and toddlers!
Queen of The Hanukkah Dosas by Pamela Ehrenberg, Illustrated by Anjan Sarkar
Told from the perspective of the older brother in a multi-cultural family, Queen of The Hanukkah Dosas is a charming tale of one family’s Hanukkah celebration. Because their mom is Indian and their father is Jewish, this family eats dosas (rice pancakes) every year instead of latkes. The little sister Sadie won’t stop climbing up on everything as the family prepares to celebrate, but her antics might just save the day when the family finds themselves in an unexpected situation. I also love that this book has a recipe for both latkes and dosas in the back. Who doesn’t love learning about different cultures through foods?
How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah by Jane Yolen, Illustrated by Mark Teague
How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah is a fantastic book for children who are curious about the holiday. Following the format of this familiar series, we see all the wrong ways to say “Happy Chanukah” (followed by the right ways, of course) demonstrated by all kinds of dinosaurs. I love this series for discussing acceptable behavior with little ones, because we have examples of dinosaurs behaving badly. Those dinosaurs always come around and behave themselves in the end though. A great introduction to the activities and traditions of Chanukah for any little one, but especially those that love Dinosaurs.
Little Red Ruthie: A Hanukkah Tale by Gloria Koster, Illustrated by Sue Eastland
Little Red Ruthie is an adorable retelling of Little Red Riding Hood with a Hanukkah twist. Little Red Ruthie is headed to Bubbe Basha’s house to make latkes, but she gets lost in the snowfall on her way. A wolf finds Ruthie and wants to eat her for dinner. Ruthie thinks fast and explains that it’s the first day of Hanukkah, and she will make a much better meal if the wolf just waits eight days. The wolf agrees, but changes his mind and decides to eat both Ruthie and her grandma. Ruthie outsmarts him again while teaching him a bit about Hanukkah along the way. There is a recipe for Ruthie’s Potato Latkes included at the end!
Hanukkah Hamster by Michelle Markel, Illustrated by Andre Ceolin
Hanukkah Hamster is a heartwarming picture book about Edgar, a cab driver who has recently moved away from his home in Israel, leaving his family behind. Edgar finds a hamster in his cab and can’t seem to find its owner. He takes the hamster home and feeds it, eventually naming him Chickpea. Edgar and Chickpea celebrate several night of Hanukkah together until Edgar recognizes the customer who lost Chickpea. I won’t spoil it, but I will just say this one has a happy ending. I love that this book reminds us that we can find companionship in the most unexpected places.
Jeremy’s Dreidel by Ellie Gellman, Illustrated by Maria Mola
In Jeremy’s Dreidel, we meet Jeremy and his friends who are building dreidels at their local JCC (Jewish Community Center). Jeremy wants to build a Braille dreidel for his father, who is blind. Jeremy educates the children about his fathers disability and provides great examples of what a blind person’s everyday life looks like. A Hanukkah lesson is also woven into the children’s narrative. There are also instructions to build some of the dreidels mentioned in the story included in the back of the book. This is a sweet book with great disabled and Jewish representation.
Hanukkah in Alaska by Barbara Brown, Illustrated by Stacey Schuett
Hannukah in Alaska is a funny Hanukkah story about how different things can look in Alaska sometimes. Our main character is not feeling excited about celebrating Hanukkah this year. It might just be because there is a moose in her backyard, and she’s worried he will break her swing. One night, things turn around when her mom and dad wake her up in the middle of the night for a beautiful surprise. She is so inspired that she comes up with a clever solution to their big moose problem. This is a perfect winter read, but especially fitting for Hanukkah of course.
The Eight Knights of Hanukkah by Leslie Kimmelman Illustrated by Galia Bernstein
We all know about the eight nights of Hanukkah, but have you heard about the Eight Knights of Hanukkah? In this adorable picture book a dragon named Dreadful is ruining the Hanukkah festivities! Lady Sadie ask the Eight Knights of Hanukkah to stop the dragon with “deeds of awesome kindness and stupendous bravery”. There is also instructions on how to play the dreidel game in the back.
I hope these titles help you and your family learn a little more about Hanukkah celebrations, and have a little fun along the way!
Has your family read any of these titles? What books do you read to celebrate or educate your family about Hanukkah? Don’t forget to comment below and share!