Monday, December 7, 2009

Celebrating Hanukkah around the world - books to share with young readers (ages 5 - 9)

As we approach celebrating Hanukkah, I wanted to share two special books that focus on celebrating Hanukkah around the world.  Holidays celebrate our traditions within our own family, and also help us feel connected to the broader world as we see how our traditions can have common threads across many places and cultures.  Both of these books help us look at how Hanukkah is a part of people's lives in different places.
Celebrate Hanukkah: With Light, Latkes, and Dreidels
part of the Holidays Around the World series
by Deborah Heiligman
DC: National Geographic, 2008
ages 5 - 9
Heiligman has written an excellent series for National Geographic, exploring how many different holidays are celebrated around the world.  In this volume, she begins with a simple, clear retelling of the Hanukkah story.  But most of the book explores how Hanukkah is celebrated around the world, in places as such as Poland, South Korea, Uganda and Peru.  The full-page photographs depict children and adults lighting candles, reciting prayer, and playing dreidels.  I especially like how Heiligman uses "we" throughout - it provides the feeling of community and commonality.  For example, next to a picture of a young boy in Uganda, Heiligman writes: "It is important to tell everyone about the miracle.  We want to show everyone we are proud to be Jewish.  We are glad that we are free to practice our religion."  The text and photographs help us see that Jewish people around the world, living in many different countries, all celebrate the holiday in much the same way.
Harvest of Light
by Allison Ofanansky and Eliyahu Alpern
MN: Kar-Ben Pub., ©2008.
ages 5 - 8
Harvest of Light is a delightful book to read at this time of year, as it puts Hanukkah in context as a celebration of the end of the harvest season.  Beginning in springtime, a young Israeli girl tells the story of how her family grows and harvests olives, and then turns them into olive oil. The family works together throughout the harvest, first picking green olives for preserving. "As Hanukkah approaches, the olives start to turn black and shiny with oil."  These olives are then harvested and brought to a local press to extract the oil.  The story culminates with Hanukkah celebration. As her Abba (father) pours their oil into the menorah, "he reminds me it is the same kind of oil that was used to light the Temple menorah in Jerusalem long ago."  The photographs bring readers right to this young girl's life.

This simple story radiates with warmth and family togetherness, creating a new perspective on Hanukkah.  Harvest of Light was listed as a Notable Book by the 2009 Sydney Taylor Book Award for Jewish children's literature.  You can see a preview of much of the book on Google Books.

For more reviews of nonfiction books, check out the Nonfiction Monday roundup at Rasco from RIF!

The review copy came from my local public library. You can find these at your local library by searching WorldCat for Celebrate Hanukkah or Harvest of Light. If you make a purchase by clicking through to Amazon, Great Kid Books receives a small percentage, which will be used to buy more books to review.

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