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10 Delightful Picture Books to Celebrate Hanukkah

by Liz Lesnick

Image credit: stellalevi, DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images

It seems to happen every year — no sooner do we finish Thanksgiving, then I realize Hanukkah’s right around the corner. Hanukkah is commonly known as the Festival of Lights, but in our family, it has become the Festival of Books. After many years of present shopping mishegoss (Yiddish for craziness), we decided that we would give each other books instead of toys, ties, and tchotchkes (Yiddish for trinkets), and our tradition has made holiday shopping a pleasure.

This year, I’ve discovered some gems that I can’t wait to gift and share with my nieces. Whether it’s your fourth Hanukkah or your fiftieth, I hope these books shed a new light on your holiday.

  • My First Chanukah

    by Tomie dePaola

    Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona books have long been family favorites, so I was delighted to discover that he had created a Hanukkah book. Little ones will sink their teeth (literally and figuratively) into this beautifully illustrated board book, which provides a gentle introduction to the customs and symbols of the holiday.
    (Ages 0 - 4)

  • Where Is Baby's Dreidel?

    by Karen Katz

    I love giving Karen Katz books to young children. Katz knows exactly how to create a magical combination of words, pictures, and flaps that engage children over and over again. I know that my young niece will love lifting the flaps on every page as she tries to help the baby find the dreidel while learning about Hanukkah traditions along the way.
    (Ages 0 - 4)

  • Sammy Spider’s First Taste of Hanukkah: A Cookbook

    by Sylvia A. Rouss, illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn

    I can’t wait to give this to my older niece, but it’s really a gift for her mom, a trained chef who is always looking for fun ways to involve her daughter in the kitchen. The cleverly titled recipes range from traditional “Little Latkes” to modern “Macabee and Cheese.” The clear instructions and cheerful illustrations will appeal to cooks of all ages.
    (Ages 2 - 8)

  • Honeyky Hanukah

    by Woody Guthrie, illustrated by Dave Horowitz

    Anyone who has ever thought, “I wouldn’t be sorry if I never heard ‘I Had a Little Dreidel’ again” will be thrilled to discover that not only did Woody Guthrie write a Hanukkah song, it’s also been transformed into a brightly illustrated book that includes a recording of the song by The Klezmatics. This is the perfect present for a Hanukkah party — playlist needs solved.
    (Ages 3 - 7)

  • Zigazak! A Magical Hanukkah Night

    by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Jon Goodell

    In this lushly illustrated fable, two devils descend upon the village of Brisk to make mischief on Hanukkah. As they wreak havoc all over Brisk, the devils meet their match in the town’s rabbi. He shows the devils that rather than ruin Hanukkah, their tricks have made the holiday more festive than ever. After all, who wouldn’t find flying latkes and dancing dreidels entertaining?
    (Ages 3 - 7)

  • The Story of Hanukkah

    by David A. Adler, iIllustrated by Jill Weber

    Between the cooking and shopping and celebrating, even grown-ups may need to be reminded of how the Maccabees defeated the vast Syrian army who occupied the Jews’ Temple and the miracle of the single jar of oil which kept the Temple’s Eternal Light illuminated for eight days. Jill Weber’s vibrant paintings and David Adler’s engaging narrative make the story come alive for readers young and old.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

  • A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love

    by Michelle Edwards, illustrated by G. Brian Karas

    If you’re looking for a book that will be read and re-read long after Hanukkah, get a copy of A Hat for Mrs. Goldman. I loved this gentle story about Sophia, a young girl who realizes that her neighbor Mrs. Goldman is always making hats for everyone else, but doesn’t have one herself. She decides to take on the challenge of knitting a hat for Mrs. Goldman — no small feat when you don’t know how to knit. Young readers will be impressed by Sophia’s determination and will learn that you’re never too young to do a mitzvah (good deed).
    (Ages 4 - 8)

  • Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins

    by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

    This Caldecott Honor-winning classic is set in an Eastern European village whose inhabitants are prevented from celebrating Hanukkah by a band of goblins who hate the holiday. Enter Hershel, a weary traveler determined to drive out the goblins and celebrate Hanukkah with plenty of the latkes he loves.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

  • Chanukah Lights

    by Michael J. Rosen, illustrated by Robert Sabuda

    I plan to give Chanukah Lights on the last night of the holiday. It’s the literary equivalent of ending a concert with the “1812 Overture” accompanied by fireworks. Robert Sabuda’s extraordinary pop-ups (really paper sculptures) are the perfect match for Michael Rosen’s beautiful poem, “Chanukah Lights.” Each double-page spread features Hanukkah in a different setting, from shtetl to kibbutz to the New World. Watch this video to experience the magic of this exquisite book.
    (Ages 5 - 9)

  • Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Hanukkah with Light, Latkes, and Dreidels

    by Deborah Heiligman

    I love National Geographic’s Holidays Around the World series, which is filled with the extraordinary images that we’ve come to expect from the magazine. This book is as much a present for parents as it is for kids. Readers of all ages will love the photographs of Jewish people around the world, from Ghana to India to Israel, celebrating Hanukkah — a powerful reminder of the diversity of the Jewish people.
    (Ages 6 - 9)

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