This entry was posted on Thursday, November 25th, 2010 at 7:41 pm and is filed under All Posts, Family and Parenthood. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
Eight Winter Nights: A Family Hanukkah Book
by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrated by Elisabeth Schlossberg
©2010 Chronicle Books
What is most notable about Eight Winter Nights is the atmosphere of Chanuka that it evokes — the illustrations are simultaneously soft and vibrant, creating a safe, happy visual environment that my two younger children (3 and 5) were happy to be drawn into.
Eight Winter Nights is not a storybook, it is a series of little rhymes strung together loosely like beads where the string is the procession from the first to the eighth night of Chanuka.
On a first level, the book reviews the most common holiday customs and activities a child can expect to experience in a Chanuka week — dreidels, menorahs, cousins coming over, music, gifts, traditional holiday foods. As a way of gently preparing the littlest ones for a holiday they are too young to remember from years past, this works well.
On a second level, the rhyming couplets and friendly illustrations depict a comfortable, secure, even nostalgic Chanuka spent with family. What I liked best was the focus on time together reading, singing, playing and cleaning up the house, rather than on getting presents. (”Opening Presents” appears only on the seventh night, paired with “Tzedakah” [Charity] — a subtle expression of non-materialistic values which I appreciate.)
Eight Winter Nights won’t win any awards for its poetry, and the occasional burst of whimsy shoots right over the heads of my in-house preschool audience. That said, the kids found the rhymes a relaxing accompaniment to the delightful illustrations, and wanted to hear the book again — a sure sign of success.
The publisher is recommending this book for ages 4-8; in my judgement, the book works well as a Chanuka experience for children 1-4 years old (older children will be underwhelmed by the text).
Eight Winter Nights: A Family Hanukkah Book makes a good choice as a gift for a family with small children, especially as it is written without preference to any stream of Judaism.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of Eight Winter Nights from the publisher, Chronicle Books.