Eight Nights of Hanukkah Reads


You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be—
I had a Mother who read to me.
~  Strickland Gilliland

Reading aloud – together as a family – has been something my husband, daughter, and I have always enjoyed. And this practice of reading together has become a tradition intricately woven into our celebrations.

C.S. Lewis said, “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally, and often far more, worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” I would push that number even further to the left as we have found that we never outgrow our favorites. Favorite books become family treasures and when we pull them out to enjoy, again and again, it is like welcoming back an old friend who brings into our midst warm and loving memories – memories which are heirlooms we pass down to our children.

The following are just eight of so many wonderful Hanukkah reads available. In past years I have done other reviews and I invite you to visit those posts.

Hanukkah Reads
More Hanukkah Reads

In His love,


verse by Michael J. Rosen
illustrations by Robert Sabuda

I love pop-up books and this book does not disappoint. Pop-up master, Robert Sabuda, and acclaimed poet, Michael J. Rosen, have created a work of art! With eight pages, one for each night, you can follow the Festival of Lights through history. From Herod’s temple, through the heat of the desert, to a shtetl in Russia; from a refugee ship bound for the New World to an Israeli kibbutz, and on to skyscrapers… this book is a treasure! Definitely a book to be explored again and again.

Available from Amazon.com Chanukah Lights

Knock-Knock Jokes That Are A Latke Fun

 by Katy Hall and Lisa Eisenberg
illustrated by Stephen Carpenter

Filled with jokes, flaps to peek under, and two Honey-kah Mack-a-bees – oh how I would have loved to have found this book when my daughter was little! Sweet, innocent humor – I can just imagine the precious laughter as these jokes tickle the funny bone of young and old alike.

Available from Amazon.com Hanukkah Ha-Has: Knock-Knock Jokes that Are a Latke Fun (Lift-The-Flap Knock-Knock Book)


by Sadie Rose Weilerstein
illustrated by Marilyn Hirsh

This is K’tonton, a tiny Jewish boy not bigger than a thumb. Like other thumblings, he was born in answer to his mother’s prayer. “Oh, that I might have a child,” she prayed. “I should not mind if he were no bigger than a thumb.”

When K’tonton was eight days old, his parents named him Isaac Samuel…”Isaac, which means ‘laughter,’ and Samuel, which means ‘God heard.’ But everyday they called him K’tonton – from the Hebrew katan, “small,” k’tonton, “very small.”

K’tonton’s mother added honey from the Land of Israel to the baby’s milk. She sang him Hebrew lullabies. His father taught him Torah…

K’tonton is the Jewish Tom Thumb, raised on milk and honey (honey from Israel). On the first day of Kislev, K’tonton is at synagogue with his father. His father, needing to talk to the rabbi, places K’tonton on the window sill to wait for him. K’tonton, thinking of Mashiach and singing “Elijah the Prophet come soon, soon”, is swept up by a tall bearded man on a white horse. Tucked into the mans sash, K’tonton thinks he is in the company of Elijah.

Arriving at a small tent – K’tonton rejoices, “‘Jerusalem! Elijah has brought me to Jerusalem!’ But of course it wasn’t Jerusalem. It was a circus, a small, one -ring, tent circus that traveled from town to town.”

A wonderful misadventure filled with old fashioned black and white illustrations.

Available used from Amazon.com K’Tonton in the Circus: A Hanukkah Adventure


by Ronne Randall
illustrated by Maggie Kneen

From inside the walls of a cozy house,
young Milly, Molly, and Marty Mouse
heard the tale of the wondrous Hanukkah lights,
and the miracle that kept them aglow for eight nights.

A sweet little Hanukkah read about a family of mice who on each night of Hanukkah find a sparkling, foiled, special treasure hidden behind a foldout on each page.

Both the verse and illustrations are gentle and precious.

Available from Amazon.com The Hanukkah Mice


by Richard Simon and Tanya Simon
illustrated by Mark Siegel

Oskar’s mother and father believed in the power of blessing.
So did Oskar…
…until the Night of Broken Glass.
His parents put him on a ship to America. He has nothing
but an address and a photo of a woman he didn’t know –
“It’s your Aunt Esther.” –
and his father’s last words to him:
“Oskar, even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings.”

Arriving by ship as a refugee on the seventh day of Hanukkah, 1938, Oskar walks over a hundred blocks on Broadway, New York City, to reach his aunt’s home. Along the way Oskar meets kindness after kindness.

Detailed, heartwarming illustrations combined with a simple and poignant story that had me wiping my eyes just to see the pages. This book delivers a beautiful message – one that is so very needed in our world today.

Available from Amazon.com Oskar and the Eight Blessings


by Daniel Pinkwater
illustrated by Jill Pinkwater

Beautiful Yiddish-speaking Yetta escaped from a poultry market and now lives with a flock of Spanish-speaking wild parrots of Brooklyn – to whom she is their Yiddish mama. One cold, snowy Hanukkah night Yetta hears a noise. It’s a cold, hungry, tiny kitten. Yetta and the parrots want to take care of the kitten, but they don’t know how.

A very sweet, multilingual story (English, Yiddish, and Spanish – A translitera­tion of Yiddish and Spanish is included) with lively, brightly colored illustrations.

Available from Amazon.com Beautiful Yetta’s Hanukkah Kitten


by Ellen Fischer
illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke

Latke, an adorable newly adopted puppy, is rescued from the animal shelter on the first night of Hanukkah. Happy to join his new family in celebrating Hanukkah, Latke has a bit of trouble learning the house rules.

Latke, The Lucky Dog, with it’s soft colors and expressive illustrations is a sweet Hanukkah read with a message of gratitude and forgiveness.

Available from Amazon.com Latke, the Lucky Dog (Hanukkah)


by Eric A. Kimmel
illustrations by Mike Wohnoutka

Old Bubba Brayna can’t hear or see very well, but o’vey she makes delicious latkes! On the first night of Hanukkah, Bubba Brayna invites her rabbi for dinner, but an old hungry bear – who smells the wonderful aroma of her latkes – is drawn to her door first and Bubba Brayna invites him in, mistaking the bear for her rabbi.

This is a cute re-telling of The Chanukkah Guest with warm and rich illustrations. Truly a Hanukkah delight!

Available from Amazon.com Hanukkah Bear

* photo credit – Juniper Books

More Hanukkah Reads

Book-Menorah-Horizontal-300x199photo credit – Juniper Books

The world says stories are meant to help you sleep.
But I say; stories are meant to wake you up.*

As a homeschool mom I remember well that glazed look that would tell me I had lost the attention of my daughter. But when I would say, “Let me tell you a story” or “Lets read a story,” my daughter’s eyes would blink into focus. The power of a good story!

A good story should wake you up. We see that ‘waking up’ over and over again in the stories told by a master storyteller found in the Brit Chadashah, Yeshua. He knew well the art of clothing a message of truth in a story and engaging the hearts of His listeners.

Though maybe not of that caliber, we do hope that our 2015 recommended Hanukkah reads will engage your hearts and minds. Hopefully you and yours will have precious moments of laughter, hugs to your hearts, inspiration, and even a few A-ha’s.

So, gather your children and grands close and be prepared to be woken up.

~ Cindy

by Jacqueline Jules
illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn

The Ziz – a giant bird from Jewish folklore – learns the truth of how sharing your light doesn’t cause your light to decrease but increases it’s intensity.

Fun and whimsical illustrations.

Purchase from Amazon.com – The Ziz and the Hanukkah Miracle


Letter on the Wind

by Sarah Marwill Lamstein
illustrated by Neil Walman

This is a story of two men of faith. Hayim, a poor man who sends a letter ‘on the wind’ to G-d asking Him to send oil for his village. Drought has withered the olives and there is no oil for the Hanukkah lamps. The second is of Ger Yehudah, a rich merchant who receives the letter as from G-d.

A beautiful retelling of a Middle East folktale about the mysterious workings of G-d.

A story of faith and charity illustrated with warm and moving watercolor illustrations.

Purchase from amazon.com Letter on the Wind


by Caryn Yacowitz
illustrated by David Slonim

I know an old lady who swallowed a dreidel,
A Chanukah dreidel she thought was a bagel…

Oy’vey! What happens when Bubbe swallows a misplaced dreidel? A fun, frolicking read.

If you are a art history buff you will throughly enjoy the illustrations which are parodies of classic works of art.

Purchase from amazon.com I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel


Hanukkah Cat 4. HANUKKAH CAT
by Chaya Burstein

A truly sweet and precious read about Lenny and the shivering orange kitten he finds at his window on the first night of Hanukkah. Lenny begs his parents to let him keep ‘Hanukkah Cat’ but his parents tell him that cats get into all kinds of mischief so Hanukkah Cat can only stay for the eight days of Hanukkah

Weaving in the customs and the story of Hanukkah, each day ends with the lighting of another Hanukkah candle.

Sweet illustrations.

Purchase from amazon.com Hanukkah Cat



by David A Adler
illustrated by Lloyd Bloom

This gentle read is the story of Morris a Holocaust survivor who with the help of two children is able to once again celebrate Hanukkah and to remember.

Author David Adler based this story on interviews he did with Holocaust survivors.

Illustrator Lloyd Bloom does a remarkable job of conveying in each drawing the grief and loneliness of Morris but also the comfort and pleasure he finds in new friends.

Both the words and illustrations will leave a lasting impression on your heart.

Purchase from amazon.com One Yellow Daffodil: A Hanukkah Story


In The Month of Kislev

by Nina Jaffe
illustrated by Louise August

A story from oral tradition, In The Month of Kislev tells the story of a rich lumber merchant who brings charges against three hungry children who he accuses of stealing the smells of his latkes. The towns kind and wise Rabbi teaches this rich merchant that there is more to Hanukkah than he thought.

Illustrated with rich, vivid woodcut illustrations.

Purchase from amazon.com In the Month of Kislev (Viking Kestrel picture books)


A Great Miracle Happened There

by Karla Kuskin
illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker

A beautiful retelling of the Maccabees – illustrated with expressive watercolors.

Purchase from amazon.com A Great Miracle Happened There: A Chanukah Story by Kuskin, Karla (1993) Hardcover


all the lights

by Arthur A. Levine
illustrated by James E. Ransome

On the eve of Hanukkah Moses and Benjamin, two brothers, set out on the long dangerous journey to Israel to escape pogroms. Traveling by foot, train, and horse cart, they carry with them a old battered lamp and enough oil for one night. They keep up their spirits by telling the stories of the Maccabees and as they light the menorah they hope for another Hanukkah miracle.

A story of brotherly love and enduring faith, All The Lights In The Night is based on the true story of how Mr. Levine’s own grandfather and great uncle escaped from the shtetl of Drahitchen in 1914.

Purchase from amazon.com All the Lights in the Night

Beautiful and intense illustrations.

* Rebbe Nachman of Breslov



concealed light


By Tsvi Sadan

Review by Cindy Elliot

As the Festival of Lights draws near, I want to share with you a book that I will be rereading during this special season.

The Concealed Light – Names of Messiah in Jewish Sources* introduces us to more than 100 names of Messiah. Alphabetized, according to the Hebrew Alef-Bet, each name has a short, deeply rich midrash that leaves you pondering long after your initial read.

Though you may be familiar with some of the names — Stone, Light, Lion, Lamb, Branch… — there are many more less familiar — Fear, Dove, Orphan, Morning without Clouds, Vulture, Donkey, Vav…

Just a glimpse into The Concealed Light:

In some English versions of Isaiah 4:2, the translators have capitalized the word “Branch.” This tells the reader that the branch here is not literal but someone unique, namely Messiah. So we read, “In that day the Branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious.” The Hebrew allows for that and more. Since “shall be beautiful and glorious” can also mean “shall become beautiful and glorious” it is possible to capitalize these two words as well. In this way, one should read Beautiful and Glorious as the transformation of Messiah from the ordinary to the magnificent. Glorious, therefore , becomes yet another name for Messiah: The Branch is Glorious.

That Messiah is called Glorious (kavod) is no small thing, since Jewish in thought, glory is one of the attributes of God. in the language of theologians, Jews see glory as a divine attribute. One can see why this is so from verses such as, “And the glory of the Lord appeared to them” (Numbers 20:6). Accordingly, what appeared before the people of Israel was no mere cloud, but rather Glory personified [given substance].


The name Orphan (yatom) for Messiah appears in ‘Yeshu’ot Meshicho’ (The Salvations of His Messiah), a book written in 1498 by Rabbi Isaac Abravanel. Abravanel, advisor to the king of Spain, was expelled with the rest of the Jews from Spain in 1492. The event created despair and caused many to become vulnerable to the immense pressure to convert. The book’s purpose, accordingly, was to renew hope in the coming Messiah.

To enhance the significance of the Orphan Messiah, Abravanel brings the argument of a converted Jew who quotes a Jewish source to prove that Messiah has no father, i.e., he is an orphan, and the convert says, “‘We have become orphans without a father’ (Lamentations 5:3 NAS). … God said to Israel: ‘You have said to me, “We have become orphans without a father”; therefore the redeemer I will bring from among you has no father, for it is said … “Today I have begotten You””’ (Psalm 2:7). The convert “concluded from this that their Messiah … has no human father” (Sefer Yeshu’ot Meshicho).

Tsvi Sadan reveals Yeshua throughout the Tanakh and unveils to us not only as He was, as He is, but also as He will be.

A wonderful read for any season. Refreshing, easy to read, but one that is to be deeply pondered. The Concealed Light is available through First Fruits of Zion.

* Some of the Jewish Sources in which Tsvi Sadan digs deep are The Talmud, Midrash Rabbah, Zohar, Sifrei, and other less know resources — many of which are only available in Hebrew.

Comment by Keren Hannah:


My read for Hanukkah last year, which was very special as it was my first Hanukkah after returning home to Jerusalem, was The Soul of Chanukah – Teachings of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, compiled by Rabbi Shlomo Katz. Carlebach and Katz are both known for their gift of music. Many Carlebach songs are even sung in Christian congregations. You’d be surprised!

I took it from the shelf this morning, thinking to revisit it this year, and opened it randomly only to read, in Chapter 2 – Shining Souls, the sentence, “The light of Chanukah is the Ohr HaGanuz, the Concealed Light”! This was more than coincidence after reading Cindy’s review last night. Although, Hanukkah is a time of miracles.

A prayer said after the hanukkiah candle lighting blessings is: Ve’ein lanu reishut le’hishtamesh bahem. ‘We are not permitted to use their light for anything’ – only to behold their beauty. The fullness of the lights of Hanukkah is…as Shlomo Carlebach describes, “…completely beyond me. For a few minutes G-d shows me this great light. But not for too long. I can’t handle it.” Why? “This isn’t normal light.” It’s not light we use for normal, everyday things. Their light reminds us to remember and to deeply reflect upon the Source of Light.

“Who was the frst one to kindle a great light in the world? The Holy One, blessed is He.” G-d said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. Our souls long for “…that one light that G-d lit when He created the world. This is the light of Chanukah. …Most of the year, the light is not the full light G-d intended for us to have. We weren’t ready for it, so G-d hid the light. Once a year, for eight days, we get a taste of it, for just a few minutes each night.”

At Hanukkah, we draw close in a unique way to the Source of Light, to the Source of everything beautiful in the world, to the One who is Light…through the Concealed Light of Messiah. May His light shine brightly and be revealed more fully in and through our lives this year, that more and more may come to see.


Hanukkah Reads

vintage-book-bundle-menorahphoto credit: Juniper Books

As the flickering lights of Hanukkah invite us into their warmth and holiness, it feels like the most natural thing in the world to cuddle up with a good book together with those we love.

Reading together has been part of my family’s celebrations for years and many of the reads I recommend have so many precious memories wrapped in them. Thus it is with pure delight to share a a list of Hanukkah reads with a short review of each book.

Between Keren and I, we have many more books to recommend than there are nights of Hanukkah. This list is merely a drop in the ocean of wonderful Hanukkah books available.

While the sun begins to rest and the stars come out of hiding, may our Abba bless you and your family with the gift of timelessness that a good read creates. Nestle into snuggly blankets, pull tightly together, and be blessed with many warm, cherished moments. 

Shalom shalom,


Illustrated by Greg Hildebrandt

A visual delight, Treasures of Chanukah does a beautiful job of “l’dor, v’dor” (The Hebrew sounds like opening the door to the next door and it translates, “from one generation to the next”).

Treasures of Chanukah includes The Story of the Maccabees, and the rich illustrations pull you into the story as if you are there with the Hammer — Judah Maccabee — and his heroic freedom fighters, standing strong against the wicked Antiochus Epiphanes.

The middle section of this book (titled Festival of Lights) brings you into the home of a family who are about to share in lighting the Chanukah lights and to celebrate Chanukah with stories, food, and games.

The last section of Treasures of Chanukah is full of wonderful Songs and Blessings.

Although out of print, Treasures of Chanukah is available for not much more than the cost of shipping at Amazon.com.  

***With or without a copy, follow along in the Books section as Keren shares the first two parts of  Treasures of Chanukah.

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By Arthur Yorinks
Illustrated by William Steig

The Flying Latke is a slap-stick tale of a feuding family and the havoc that results from a food fight on one Hanukkah night. Uncle Izzy throws a latke out the window, and the FBI ends up thinking that the latke is a UFO. Soon the air force is called in to shoot it down.

For eight days and nights, Danny Silverstein and his meshugge (crazy) family are trapped together and oi’vey! the plotzing (excitement)!

The Flying Latke provides a good laugh, and if you are familiar with children’s books, you might recognize a couple of the players: Maurice Sendak (as Uncle Al) and Vladimir Radunsky (as Sol).

The Flying Latke is available both new and used at Amazon.com.  

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one candle

By Eve Bunting
Illustrated by K. Wendy Popp

One Candle is told through the eyes of a young girl. It is a Hanukkah story about remembering the past and celebrating the present.

Every year on Hanukkah, Grandma hollows out a potato, adds some oil and a wick, and lights it. Then Grandma shares the story of when she and her sister, Rose, were in the Nazi concentration camp, Buchenwald. When it came time for the Festival of Lights, Grandma stole a potato, along with bits of margarine and a couple of matches. Using a thread from Rose’s skirt, they made a wick and set apart this special time with their one Hanukkah candle.

That Hanukkah candle lifted us,” Grandma says, and there are tears in her eyes. “It lifted us to the stars.

‘One Candle’ is a story of hope told with gentle words and beautiful, tender illustrations. It is available for purchase at Amazon.com.  

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By Fran Manushkin
Illustrated by Robin Spowart

It happened long ago in a village far away, where there lived a little family named Menashe. Papa and Mama Menashe were tailors who had two children, Rebecca and Ezra. Rebecca and Ezra were wonderful children who helped their mama and papa. Every year when it came time to celebrate Hanukkah, they dug up potatoes to make the latkes, and they picked the apples for applesauce. But one year, winter came suddenly and snow began to fall — not just a lazy flake or two or a little bit of a flurry. No! This was a tremendous blizzard — as if all heaven’s featherbeds had burst!

A family read since Roxanne was small, Latkes and Applesauce is a sweet, gentle story inspired by the rabbinic injunction that on Hanukkah, we must not mourn or fast.

Latkes and Applesauce is available for not much more than the cost of shipping at Amazon.com. 

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By Allison Ofanansky
Photographs by Eliyahu Alpern

In Harvest of Light, follow an Israeli family as they grow, harvest, and process olives into oil — some of which is used in their lamps for the festival of Hanukkah.

Illustrated with beautiful photographs and told through the narrative of a young girl, Harvest of Light is about a family living in The Land and working together.

Harvest of Light is available for purchase at Amazon.com.  

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By David A. Adler
Illustrated by Kevin O’Malley

There are two Chelms. The first is a real town in Poland. The second is a make-believe town in Jewish folklore, and is a place where people have big sweet hearts but very little sense.

If you have never met the people in the folklore town of Chelm, Chanukah in Chelm is a wonderful first meeting. If you have met them, Chanukah in Chelm is a delightful revisit.

David Adler tells a tall tale about Mendel, the synagogue caretaker, who needs a table to hold the menorah for the first night of Chanukah.

Full to the brim with good humor and warm candlelit illustrations, Chanukah in Chelm is a sweet, lovable portrait of the fictional inhabitants of Chelm.

Chanukah in Chelm is available for purchase at Amazon.com.  

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By Marci Stillerman
Illustrated by Pesach Gerber

As the last night of Chanukah is drawing to a close, Oma gathers her grandchildren close and tells them the story of the strange, twisted menorah that burns bright in her window.

Winner of the Sydney Taylor Award of the Association of Jewish Libraries (1998), Nine Spoons is a precious story of mesirat nefesh (self-sacrifice for the performance of a mitzvah). It is based on a true event: when Oma and fellow women interns obtained spoons to make a menorah for Chanukah.

Nine Spoons is well-researched and is illustrated with great sensitivity toward a very young audience — an audience to whom this may be their first exposure to the horrific events of the Shoah.

Nine Spoons is available for purchase at Amazon.com. 

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By Michael J. Rosen
Illustrated by Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson

Elijah’s Angel is loosely based on Michael J. Rosen’s friendship with Elijah Pierce, “a renowned woodcarver, lay minister, barber, and personal friend to many of his visitors. Elijah shared his work with his customers, fellow churchgoers, and neighborhood admirers for nearly half a century.”

Elijah’s Angel is told from the perspective of nine-year-old Michael, a young Jewish boy to whom Elijah gives a carved wooden angel. Deeply touched, young Michael is nonetheless concerned: is the carved angel a graven image?

Winner of the National Jewish Book Award, Elijah’s Angel is a sweet story of friendship and respect. This book is available for not much more than the cost of shipping at Amazon.com. 

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Eight Stories for Hanukkah