Kimmel, Eric A. When Mindy Saved Hanukkah. Illus. by Barbara McClintock. Scholastic, 1998.
Can children ever get enough of stories with small heroes? Of Kimmel’s many finely crafted picture books, this is one of his best. Mindy and the rest of the pint-sized Klein family live behind the walls of the Eldridge Street Synagogue in New York. When resourceful Papa goes on his quest for a candle they can melt into tiny candles for their menorah, he meets with near-disaster. “A fierce Antiochus of a cat” pounces on him. Leave it to brave little Mindy to save the day! A huge part of the fun of this exciting story is Barbara McClintock’s humorous, detailed ink and watercolor paintings, evoking century-old styles and interesting aspects of the historic synagogue. I can’t imagine a more enjoyable way for children to discover the reasons for Hanukkah.
More Great Hanukkah Read-alouds
Kimmel, Eric. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. Holiday House, 1994. Hershel of Ostropol arrives at a village where the people can’t celebrate Hanukkah because their synagogue has been overtaken by goblins. Hershel is brave and bright enough to outwit those goblins, though, in this thrilling story brought to life by Trina Schart Hyman’s spooky illustrations, which won a Caldecott Honor.
Krensky, Stephen. Hanukkah at Valley Forge. Illus. by Greg Harlin. Dutton, 2006. Inspired by facts, this quiet, moving story features a young Jewish soldier explaining Hanukkah to George Washington and sharing with him a thirst for freedom. Atmospheric watercolor paintings capture the contrast between the cold Pennsylvania winter and the soldier’s glowing candlelight.
Kroll, Stephen. The Hanukkah Mice. Marshall Cavendish, 2008. A girl’s new dollhouse is the perfect place for a family of mice to celebrate Hanukkah.
Manushkin, Fran. Hooray for Hanukkah! Random House, 2001. “I am bright, but I could be brighter!” Young children will be charmed by this lighthearted Hanukkah story told from the perspective of the menorah.
Polacco, Patricia. Trees of the Dancing Goats. Simon & Schuster, 1996. Based on the author’s childhood, Polacco shows how Trisha and her family prepare to celebrate Hanukkah. When Trisha visits her neighbors, she finds them bedridden with scarlet fever instead of decorating for Christmas. Then Grampa comes up with a surprising way to cheer up their neighbors. The plan involves a lot of work and sacrifice, but it will make for a holiday for all to cherish.
Rosen, Michael J. Elijah’s Angel: A Story of Chanukah and Christmas. Harcourt, 1992. Touching story of a friendship between nine-year-old Michael and the elderly African-American Elijah, who gives the boy one of his carved wooden angels. Should a Jewish child keep such a gift?
Singer, Isaac Bashevis. Power of Light: Eight Stories for Hanukkah. Farrar, 1990. Thoughtful, uplifting stories for children ages 10-14.