Delightful Children’s Books to Celebrate Hanukkah This Year
by Liz Lesnick
It seems to happen every year — no sooner do we finish Thanksgiving than 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 first Hanukkah or your 50th, I hope these books shed a new light on your holiday.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s 8 Nights of Chanukah
With this board book, beloved author Eric Carle brings everyone’s favorite little caterpillar along to introduce the littlest readers to Hanukkah. Brimming with bright and beautiful colors, this delightful counting book follows the Very Hungry Caterpillar through the eight nights of Hanukkah and the wonderful traditions that make up the Festival of Lights.
Elmo's Little Dreidel
Elmo’s celebrating Hanukkah at his friends’ house where he learns about Hanukkah traditions like lighting the menorah. After dinner, everyone gathers to play dreidel, but Elmo doesn’t know how. Young children will love learning how to play dreidel along with Elmo, and if they’re anything like my kids, they’ll be beating the adults in no time!
Good Night Hanukkah
From the Good Night Our World series comes a Hanukkah-themed edition to help lull the littlest of readers to sleep during the holiday season. The story encourages singing along to "Rock of Ages," reading the Torah together, and so much more - a perfect introduction to all the Festival of Lights has to offer.
Latkes and Applesauce
When a snowstorm arrives and traps the Menashe family in their home during Hanukkah, they worry they won’t have enough to eat. However, when a stray dog and cat appear at their doorstep looking for shelter, the family invites them in. Their willingness to share their food gets repaid on the eighth day of Hanukkah.
This reimagining of the classic children's book follows a Jewish bunny family. Instead of "hushes," dancing, kvelling, and noshing make up this little bunny's bedtime routine. Filled with Yiddish words, this book — set during a Jewish family gathering — is a delight. Don't miss the latke recipe by Ina Garten!
Fans of Little Golden Books will love this Big Golden Book all about Hanukkah. Simple, yet informative text introduces preschoolers to the many traditions of Hanukkah — from eating latkes to lighting the menorah. It also outlines the history behind the holiday and why people celebrate.
Happy Hanukkah, Corduroy
Who could resist spending Hanukkah with Corduroy? This adorable board book is the perfect present for the littlest readers. They’ll love learning about Hanukkah traditions like lighting the menorah and playing dreidel alongside everyone’s favorite overalls-wearing bear.
Hanukkah, Here I Come!
Kids who enjoyed Kindergarten, Here I Come! will love this holiday title from the same series. Told through upbeat and bouncy poems, this book takes readers through the fun, games, stories, and traditions that Hanukkah brings.
My First Chanukah
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.
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"Hanukkah candles, shining bright. One more candle every night." This charming picture book honors the traditions of Hanukkah, from the universal (dreidels and latkes) to the household variety (shadow puppetry!). Cozy and festive, this one might even inspire special rituals for your own family.
Meet the Latkes
It’s the first night of Hanukkah with the Latkes, an unusual family of potato pancakes. While mom and dad are busy in the kitchen frying up jelly donuts, not latkes, Grandpa tells Lucy his uproarious, inaccurate version of the Hanukkah story. Whether you’re Team Sour Cream or Team Applesauce, you and yours are guaranteed to love the Latkes!
The Eight Knights of Hanukkah
Celebrate Hanukkah in medieval times with this adorable holiday picture book! A dragon destroys all the holiday preparations, so a group of knights sets out to find and fix each charred, broken, and ruined item. This charming and humorous story champions showing kindness to everyone, including destructive dragons.
Light the Menorah
Everyone remembers being told, “You’re too young to light the menorah, maybe next year.” Now even the littlest family members can light the menorah thanks to pull-tabs that illuminate the candles on each page. I plan to give all of my nieces their own copy so they have their own menorah to light.
The Night Before Hanukkah
“’Twas the night before the eight days of Hanukkah. Families were prepping from New York to Santa Monica.” With clever rhymes and lively illustrations, The Night Before Hanukkah brims with holiday spirit. This warm-spirited picture book is a delightful introduction to the holiday and its traditions aimed at the littlest celebrants.
All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah
Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, and Gertie, the beloved sisters of the All-of-a-Kind Family series, return in this charming holiday tale set in 1912 on the Lower East Side of New York City. Old and new fans will delight in the family’s trials and tribulations as they prepare for Hanukkah. All-of-a-Kind Hanukkah is the perfect gift for any night of the holiday.
The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol
Magic, kindness, and generosity combine in this sweet holiday story from a beloved children’s author and illustrator team. Nate Gadol is a Hanukkah spirit who can make things last longer. During a long winter, he helps the Glaser family’s medicine stretch enough for them to share with another family.
Grover’s Eight Nights of Light
Everyone’s favorite furry blue monster is throwing a Hanukkah party and you’re invited! Your little ones will love learning about the Festival of Lights with Elmo, Cookie, Big Bird, and the rest of the Sesame Street gang. Along with the charming story, Grover’s Eight Nights of Light includes press-out Hanukkah cards, stickers, and games that will keep young readers entertained for eight nights!
Zigazak! A Magical Hanukkah Night
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?
The Story of Hanukkah
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.
Best Kids' Hanukkah Jokes Ever!
Get ready to LOL! This book of Hanukkah jokes for kids makes an excellent holiday gift that will have them rolling with laughter. With over 500 jokes to tell at Hanukkah, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, and other holidays, aspiring young comedians will have plenty of material.
A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love
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).
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins
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.
Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama
For many families, holiday season means celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas. I can’t think of a better gift for a blended family than Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama, a joyous embrace of both holidays that’s bound to become a contemporary holiday classic.
The Golden Dreidel
The Golden Dreidel puts a Jewish spin on the classic Narnia-style story. Sara receives a large, golden dreidel for Chanukah that turns into a girl and leads Sara through a portal to another world. But when the dreidel girl gets kidnapped, Sara must figure out how to rescue her and return to her own world.
Yitzi and the Giant Menorah
A young boy named Yitzi and his fellow villagers in Chelm have received a wondrous gift from the Mayor of Lublin: a giant, vibrant menorah placed in their square, where they gather together each night to watch the lighting of a candle. When the villagers decide to send the Mayor a thank you gift, Yitzi comes up with the perfect idea.
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.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2015 and updated in 2022.