Though it’s easy enough to find Christmas books for children around the holidays, sometimes it can be a challenge to find books about Hanukkah. Below are four of my toddler’s favorite Hanukkah books this year.
"The Hanukkah Mice" by Ronne RandallHardcover, Ages 2-6
“The Hanukkah Mice” has a winning combination of beautiful illustrations and rhyming text about Hanukkah traditions. The story opens with Milly, Molly and Marty Mouse talking about the wondrous tale of the Hanukkah lights “and the miracle that kept them aglow for eight nights.” Mama Mouse is sitting in her comfy chair knitting a scarf and encourages her “mousekins” to see what Hanukkah sights they can find around the house.
On the following eight nights the mice find a menorah, gelt, latkes, a dreidel, donuts, presents and Hanukkah holiday cards. Every time the mice discover an item the reader opens a flap on the right-hand side of the page to reveal a lovely illustration of that Hanukkah symbol. At the end of the book the last pages open to reveal a huge drawing of a Hanukkah menorah displayed in the window. The mice gaze at the lights and marvel at all the other menorahs displayed in windows around the neighborhood.
This hardcover book has thick pages that are somewhere between regular paper book and board book thickness, making it a great choice for even the youngest toddler.
"The Ziz and the Hanukkah Miracle" by Jacqueline JulesPaperpack, ages 4+ (Though our 1 year old loves this story too)
“The Ziz and the Hanukkah Miracle” tells the story of a mythological bird name the Ziz, who laments how early the sun goes down in winter and longs for a light to read his scrolls by. After trying to catch fireflies and lantern fish, he finally visits Mt. Sinai where God gives him a lamp filled with oil. The Ziz adores his new lamp and enjoys cooking his dinner and fluffing his nest by its light.
Then, while flying over the Holy Temple one afternoon he hears Judah Maccabee lamenting how little oil is left to light the Temple’s menorah. The Ziz is concerned to hear this and flies to Mt. Sinai to make sure God knows about the situation. God tell him that the Ziz should help the Maccabees keep the menorah alight. The Ziz doesn’t like this idea at all (“Mine!” the Ziz sobs, “Mine!”) but he has an important lesson to learn: how to share. Though he resists at first, finally he decides to help. Every night he visits the Temple and a mouse family drags the lamp indoors, where an owl refills the menorah using oil from the Ziz’s lamp.
Though “The Ziz and the Hanukkah Miracle” doesn’t tell the entire Hanukkah story it does teach an important lesson about community. With bold, colorful illustrations this is a cute book to add to your Hanukkah rotation.
"Where Is Baby’s Dreidel?: A Lift-the-Flap Book" By Karen KatzBoard book, ages baby to toddler
Karen Katz’s “Where Is Baby’s Belly Button” is practically an essential baby book these days. Turns out she has an entire series of these books, each of which features adorable illustrations of a baby searching for different things.
In “Where is Baby’s Dreidel” a baby searches for his Hanukkah dreidel. Is it behind the curtains? No, that’s the menorah! Is it behind the eggs on the table? No, those are the latkes! Every time the baby thinks of someplace to search readers lift a flap on the page to reveal what he actually found. In this way the baby searches throughout the house and discovers many symbols of Hanukkah before finally finding his dreidel in the living room where his family has finished decorating for their Hanukkah celebration.
This simple lift-the-flap board book is perfect for babies and young toddlers alike. Its warm illustrations and simple text make it perfect for introducing Hanukkah concepts to young children.
"Elmo’s Little Dreidel" by Sesame Street 123Ages 1 and up
In this cute story Elmo visits his Jewish friend Gil and learns all about Hanukkah. He helps them light the menorah, they sing Hanukkah songs and they eat potato latkes. Then Gil teaches Elmo how to play the dreidel game, taking the time to teach Elmo what the Hebrew letters are and what they mean. At the end of the evening Gil gives Elmo his very own dreidel and Elmo rushes home to teach his own family how to play the Hanukkah game. With familiar illustrations and easy-to-understand text, this board book is a fun way to read about Hanukkah symbols and the dreidel game with your toddler.