-posted by Meghan
This is our 5th Hanukkah as a family, which means it’s really the 5th Hanukkah I’ve ever celebrated! (My non-religious husband was quite happy to follow along with my family’s traditional holiday celebrations until we had the twins and then he wanted to introduce them to the culture he was raised with…) For the past few years, the kids and I have been discovering Hanukkah together, and we have a list of our favorite “firsts”. We’re just about ready to move on to finding some new books this year, books that delve more into the history and origins of the holiday, but while we’re discovering which of those we like best, I thought we’d share some firsts, which are great for introducing kids (and adults like me!) to the concept of celebrating Hanukkah. Enjoy!
Our Very First Hanukkah Book
Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel Board Book illustrated by Stephen Carpenter
I hesitate to recommend this, as it’s definitely one of the more annoying books we’ve ever owned. But, and it’s a big one, the kids LOVED it. They picked it out for their very first Hanukkah, when they were about 10 months old, because when you press the button on the cover it tinnily plays “I Have a Little Dreidel”. Over and over and over. But as a very first introduction to the holiday, it’s kind of perfect. They learn the dreidel song, and see basic elements of celebration (family, menorahs, dreidels, etc.) in the bright illustrations. If only it came with ear plugs…
Our First “About” Hanukkah Book
Sammy Spider’s First Hanukkah by Silvia Rouss, illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn
Sammy Spider and his mother live on the ceiling of the Shapiro’s house, and Sammy is fascinated by watching them prepare for Hanukkah. He wants to celebrate too! Between listening in on the family and talking with his mother, Sammy learns a lot, but he doesn’t get to spin a dreidel, because spiders spin webs, not dreidels. But on the last night of Hanukkah, Sammy gets a surprise. The pictures are reminiscent of Eric Carle, which is appealing (in our family) to the kids and parents alike, and the story does give kids an excellent overview of a Hanukkah celebration.
Our First “Heart” of Hanukkah Book
The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes by Linda Glasser, illustrated by Nancy Cote
This is currently my favorite Hanukkah book, because the girl is determined and adorable, and it’s really about the true meaning (for our non-secular family) of not only Hanukkah, but Christmas as well – it’s about sharing, giving, family, neighbors, and celebrating each year by enjoying each other – and eating yummy food! Perhaps it’s just the right age for it, but this year my 4 year olds are really starting to understand the idea of sharing what we have with others and really acting selflessly. This book has struck a chord with them, and whenever I read it to them, sappy old me chokes up.
Our First Multicultural Hanukkah Book
Hanukkah Moon by Deborah de Costa
I know this is incredible ignorant of me, but since my exposure to Jewish holidays has come from my husband, I tend to think of these holidays in the cultural terms that he has taught me – the Russian and Hungarian cultures and traditions that his parents and grandparents handed down to him. Until I read this book, I hadn’t thought about how Hanukkah is celebrated in other cultures, so reading about the Mexican celebration of Januca, complete with the dreidel pinata which captivated my pinata loving kids, fascinated me, and opened my eyes.
Our First Hanukkah Poetry Book
Hanukkah Haiku by Harriet Zeifert
I love, love, love this book. Not only does it have the most beautiful illustrations, but it showcases something unique to do for each day of Hanukkah, it teaches kids about Haiku, and it is short! We have been reading it several times each night this year, looking at the pictures, talking about what we will do to celebrate each night, and even discussing poetry, the haiku format and syllables. Did I mention that it’s short, so you won’t even mind reading it “just one more time?” 🙂