Celebrate the festival of lights with these miraculous Hanukkah children’s books! In addition to relating the traditional tale of the Maccabees and the eight day miracle your family will enjoy these wonderful and sometimes-fanciful Hanukkah stories. I am delighted to be able to include a selection of holiday books that includes some non-traditional, diverse families celebrating Hanukkah. So gather around the menorah, make your latkes, eat those sufganiyah and spin the dreidel! Hanukkah is just around the corner.
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Most of these books are fiction, but you will find several titles that give a historical perspective, or offer up suggested reflections on the meaning of Hanukkah. I was even able to include a Hanukkah poetry book! Happy reading.
All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah by Emily Jenkins. Your favorite family is back in this new picture book based on Sidney Taylor’s beloved novels. In this short story, the girls and their mother cook up a batch of latkes. Four year old Gertie desperately wants to help but when she throws a fit, mother sends Gertie to her room. When Papa comes home, he uses his fatherly love to tempt her out from her hiding spot and the whole family–plus Uncle Hyman–gather around to light the menorah. This picture book is a wonderful addition to your eight days of reading.
The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol by Arthur A. Levine. Think of this as a pourquoi tale for Hanukkah gifts! Nate Godol is a spirit who uses his magic to make things “last as long as they needed to.” He loves bringing small joys to others as well as solving larger problems. In 1881, Nate Gadol watches the immigrant Glaser family suffer through a cold and hungry winter. But then he meets his old friend, Nick, whom he knew from “way, way back.” Nick is having trouble with his sleigh and the two realize that if they help each other, they can bring joy to all families.
The Ninth Night of Hanukkah by Erica S. Perl. In this charming and utterly heartwarming story, siblings Max and Rachel are excited to celebrate Hanukkah. Their family is still unpacking from a recent move and they can’t locate their traditional holiday supplies. With some help from a diverse group of neighbors, the family is about to celebrate and when the eight nights are over, the children decide to have a “ninth night” to thank the neighbors.
The Eight Knights of Hanukkah by Leslie Kimmelman. A “dastardly dragon named Dreadful,” is interferring with the kingdom’s Hanukkah festivities, so eight diverse knights set out put things right. They help prepare new sufganiyo, replace ruined dreidels, clean the castle and perform mitzvah. But there is a surprise waiting for them because the dragon is not all that it seems. This is truly a fun and unique Hanukkah story you won’t want to miss!
Light the Menorah! A Hanukkah Handbook by Jacqueline Jules. I love this Hanukkah book so much! Following a short introduction and the candle blessing, Jules offers up a short poem and a reflection to read aloud for each night of Hanukkah. The readings teach about the rituals of the holiday and connect them to wider tenets shared by many faiths, such as the virtues of kindness and tolerance. The book also includes the Hanukkah story, crafts and recipes. A wonderful book for families to read and share together. I really look forward to reading this with my boys this year!
MORE: Most winter holidays are in some way a celebration of light. You can expand your child’s understanding by reading the titles on our diverse winter holiday book list.
Way Too Many Latkes: A Hanukkah in Chelm by Linda Glaser. My kids and I love stories of Chelm! In Jewish folklore, Chelm is the village of fools and tales from Chelm are inevitably silly and giggle-inducing. This Hanukkah, Faigel has forgotten how to make latkes so he asks the rabbi how many potatoes, eggs, etc. she needs. He tells her “All of them.” She follows his instructions and ends up with oh-so-many latkes! Obviously there is only one solution–and it is a delicious one!
Hanukkah Bear by Eric A. Kimmel. This is a delightful book for preschoolers. The elderly, sight-impaired Bubba Brayna is getting her home ready for the holiday. When a great big bear knocks on her door, she assumes it is the rabbi she is expecting and invites him into her home. She and the bear celebrate with latkes, a dreidel game and lighting the menorah. After the bear leaves, human guest arrive and the children recognize bear tracks, the mistake is revealed and everyone has a good chuckle.
Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Tanya Simon and Richard Simon. A boy arrives in New York after living through Kristallnacht. It is the 7th night of Hanukkah as well as Christmas Eve and he must walk 100 blocks to find his aunt. Along the way he encounters people who show him kindness, sees the holiday sights of the city and passes landmarks which inspire him to reflect on his circumstances.
Hanukkah Moon by Deborah Da Costa. I love this book as a way to introduce children to Latin-Jewish culture. Isabel goes to her Aunt Louisa’s house to celebrate Hanukkah. Isabel’s father tells her that they will celebrate the “Hanukkah moon” at her aunt’s house, who has recently immigrated from Mexico. Isabel learns about Sephardic Hanukkah traditions, as well as breaking a dreidel piñata and going out into the night to welcome the “la luna nueve.”
Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas by Pamela Ehrenberg. This is another great book to show that there are many ways to celebrate Hanukkah and while most blended-family holiday books focus on Hanukkah-Christmas families, Ehrenberg shares a lively story of how a diverse family shares in their non-Jewish heritage during Hanukkah. In his Jewish-Indian family, a boy looks forward to making their family’s dosas (an Indian dish) at Hanukkah but he is wary of letting his little sister help. But he finally learns the trick when he invents a new version of the “dreidel song.”
Jeremy’s Dreidel by Ellie Gellman. At the Jewish community center, Jeremy and his friends learn about the lessons of Hanukkah and the game of dreidel. All the children bring their own supplies to create one-of-a-kind dreidels. Jeremy creates his own special top out of clay and presses the Hebrew letters in braille. Jeremy explains that his father is blind and the raised letters will allow him to read the dreidel with his hands.
MORE: Hanukkah books for blended families: Interfaith holiday picture books (Hanukkah-Christmas)
Little Red Ruthie: A Hanukkah Tale by Gloria Koster. This is a cute Hanukkah-themed adaptation of the classic Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. Little Red Ruthie is on her way to Bubbe Basha’s for latkes when she meets the wolf. Actually, she walks into his mouth. Summoning up the bravery of the Maccabees, she convinces the wolf to let her go, promising to be much tastier and plumper after filling herself with latkes. At Bubbe’s, Ruthie fries up the tasty pancakes and regales the wolf-dressed-as-Bubbe with the story of Hanukkah, thus distracting him from his original goal. A very cute story.
Hanukkah: A Counting Book In English – Hebrew – Yiddish by Emily Sper. I adore this counting book. Colorful candles appear one by one with die-cut pages. Each page spread gives the English, Hebrew and Yiddish translations of the number plus the object (e.g. one menorah, four dreidels, etc.). A simple explanation of the holiday can be found at the end. Perfect for toddlers and preschoolers, but fun for older kids to practice the translations, too.
MORE: Book list of Jewish folktales for children
The Story of Hanukkah by David A. Adler is exactly what the title says. Adler’s text gives a clear and straightforward account of the miracle in the Temple of Jerusalem. After the account of the historical story of the Maccabees, Adler ends with a brief look at how Hanukkah is celebrated today. This is a great book to read to introduce kids to the holiday.
Hanukkah Haiku by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Karla Gudeon. This is a fun take on telling the story of Hanukkah. Each night of the festival of lights gets its own short poem. The pages are stepped for each day which gives the book an interactive element. I love the illustrations which take the readers on a whirlwind tour while at the same time teaching us about the 8 day celebration.
Elijah’s Angel: A Story for Chanukah and Christmas. This is a beautiful and moving story about religious tolerance. An African-American barber gives a Jewish boy a carved wooden angel and Michael worries that he will offend his parents and God if he keeps it. When he tells his parents of Elijah’s gift they share with him the joy of having friendships that transcend religious boundaries. The illustrations are gorgeous. Due to some sensitive subject matter, I recommend this book for ages 7+.
Want some EASY Hanukkah crafts to do while you tell the story of the Maccabees? Try these: