I wrote Chicken Man after living and working on Kibbutz Mizra. I had a friend who worked in the ‘lul’ [lool] – the chicken coop. His charming stories of the chickens and the fun he had in the lul convinced me to work there, too. It was a horrible place and I hated the chickens. That’s when I learned about the power of stories. [1]

by Michelle Edwards

Deep in Israel’s Jezreel Valley there once lived a man known to his mother as Rody and to all the rest of  Kibbutz Hanan as Chicken Man…Chicken man liked the chicken coop. He liked the chickens. He liked all the noisy clucking when he sang…Chicken Man thought that he might like to work in the chicken coop forever.

Rody loves his job in the chicken coop, he loves the chickens as well. And the chickens? Well they love Rody in return – in fact when Rody took care of the chickens they laid more eggs than ever before.

But there was a problem. Rody had a unique attitude toward his work and that attitude caused others to covet his position. You see Rody was a content and happy worker. He even sang as he worked. He made whatever job he was given seem easy and that caused Bracha – who spent long hours in front of a big hot stove – to request to be moved to the chicken coop. So Rody was moved to the laundry.

It was hard for Rody to leave the chickens but he said goodbye and moved to the laundry. Singing as he worked, he once again made his job look easy. And soon Dov – who milked the cows – asked for Rody’s job. And so it goes on and Rody is moved from one position to another.

This is truly a delightful read and without giving the entire story away – all ends well for both Rody and the chickens.

Chicken Man teaches us that there is beauty and value in every job. This book is a sweet introduction for children to a valuable work ethic and an insight into the early years of life on the kibbutzim in Israel.

In conjunction with reading this book with your children or grands, you might like to take advantage of a free online teacher guide written by Barb Stein and Michelle Edwards:

Chicken Man Teacher’s Guide

You can purchase Chicken Man from
Chicken Man

1. From a Barbara Bietz interview of Michelle Edwards. You can read the entire review at Jewish Books for Kids

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 Hanukkah Bear

* photo credit – Juniper Books



Jacqueline Dembar Greene
Illustrated by Doug Chayka

The Secret Shofar Of Barcelona takes place in Spain during the late 1400’s and early 1500’s. This was a time of intense Antisemitism and severe persecution of the Jews by the Roman Catholic Church. It is known historically as the Spanish Inquisition. Thousands of Jews were murdered. Further thousands managed to survive by fleeing to other lands. Still, large numbers remained in Spain and, to save their lives, converted to the Catholic faith. These converts were known as conversos –  Jews living Catholic lives in public while practicing their true faith – as best they could – in private. These conversos not only had to hide their true faith from the Inquisition but were under constant surveillance and suspicion. Spies were everywhere and the secret Jews lived in constant fear of being discovered.

From this period came a Sephardic legend about one very courageous converso, Don Fernando Aguilar and his son, Raphael. Don Fernando Aguilar was the conductor of the Royal Orchestra of Barcelona. On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, Don Fernando decided to secretly honor the Jewish New Year by presenting a concert that included the blowing of the shofar. Hiding in plain sight, his son Rafael blew the shofar – Tek’iah! Shevarim! Teru’ah! Tek’iah Gedolah! Hundreds of notes in all. The non-Jewish audience were fully appreciative of the performance and sound of this unfamiliar instrument. But to the Jews in the audience, the cry of the shofar meant that they could fulfill the mitzvah of hearing the shofar blown for the first time in years.

Accompanied by rich, warm and opaque paintings, The Secret Shofar of Barcelona is a gentle way to introduce AntiSemitism and the period of the Inquisition to children.


~ Review by Cindy

You can purchase The Secret Shofar of Barcelona through – The Secret Shofar of Barcelona (High Holidays)


A mountain of blintzes to make us think of the mountain Moses climbed. Up and down he went, to bring us the Torah, the Laws of G-d’s Kingdom.


Barbara Diamond
illustrated by Anik McGrory

“Such an important holiday!” said Sarah. “When Moses went to the top of the mountain to meet G-d and receive the Laws – such a meeting! Can you imagine? “What a celebration we could have! What a mountain of blintzes I could make! If only…”

Shavuot is only two weeks away and Sarah is thinking about the mountain of blintzes she is hoping to make for her family. But, there is one problem – they have no spare money for the ingredients.

Sarah and Max come up with a scheme for making the much needed extra money. With every good intention of daily putting their hard earned coins into a coin box, Shavuot draws near and the entire family gathers to open the coin box only to find there is not one coin inside!

Set in the 1920’s in the Catskill Mountains A Mountain of Blintzes is a sweet story of a family pulling together. With truly delightful illustrations and a story with a touch of the tradition of Chelm, A Mountain of Blintzes is a Shavuot treat!

You can purchase A Mountain of Blintzes via
A Mountain of Blintzes

Author Barbara Diamond has given HIS-ISRAEL permission to share her mother’s recipe for blintzes in our DIY Shavuot – take a look – click on this link.

~ Review by Cindy


“Everything is foreseen, yet free will is granted.”
Nevertheless, every event on the “stage of life” occurs
exactly according to the script written by the “Director”
– He Who created the characters, watches over them,
– assigns the roles, and controls everything.

Gadi Pollack

~ Review by Cindy

Purimshpiel is a telling of the story (megillah) of Esther – illustrated and written by one of my favorite illustrators and storytellers, Gadi Pollack – an artist who uses his talent l’shem Shamayim (for the sake of Heaven). The events of the Book of Esther are presented in the light of Chazal and Midrashim sources.*

A large oversized book with text in both Hebrew and English, the translation of Megillat Esther [the Scroll of Esther] is taken from The Margolin Edition of the Torah.**

A fun, whimsical telling in the spirit of a traditional purimshpiel (Purim Play) that tells the story of Esther on multiple levels. Both the text and illustrations are touched with humor and so many details that will  keep any age enjoying this read time and time again.


You can purchase Purimshpiel here via Purim Shpiel

It’s Purim!
A time to celebrate, with fun and laughter, the joy, light, and salvation to be found in our G-d!

* Each source is noted at the back of the book.
** The Chumash (5 books of Moses) with Haftorahs (portion read from The Prophets), The Five Megillot (Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther), and the Complete Sabbath Prayers with a translation based on Rashi and other traditional sources, integrating both the explanation and translation of the verse into the text itself. Available via


היום בו נולדת
הוא היום בו החליט הקב”ה
שהעולם אינו יכול להתקיים בלעדיך

The day you were born
is the day God decided
that the world could not exist without you.
~ Rabbi Nachman of Breslov*

When I First Held You

a lullaby from Israel
by Mirik Snir
illustrated by Eleyor Snir
translated from Hebrew by Mary Jane Shubow

When I First Held You speaks a message which every child should have impressed on their heart from the time they are conceived – that they are not only cherished but celebrated.

On the day you were born (conceived)… mountains  bowed, moonbeams blessed, clouds danced, sunbeams sent love… As the sages tell us in the Talmud – and as any parent will most definitely agree – “With every child the world begins anew.”

This sweet book with its simple words and caressing illustrations creates a lasting image of a message that the Sages of Israel have long taught – that each person created by G-d’s love is a world unto himself / herself with a uniqueness and a purpose of their own.


A gentle book for the very young but with a message that should be repeated to every child at every age.

You can purchase this book – with it’s priceless message – from When I First Held You: A Lullaby from Israel (Kar-Ben Favorites)


* As translated in the book. I have read the following translation in other places and prefer the slight change of decided to declared and exist to preserved. Both these slight word changes more clearly express the essence of this lullaby.

The day on which you were born,
that is the day on which God declared
that the world could not be preserved without you.

~ Review by Cindy

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 – 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 All the Lights in the Night

Beautiful and intense illustrations.

* Rebbe Nachman of Breslov


Over 500 years ago, the King and Queen of Spain decreed a harsh law on the Jews and expelled them from their homes. The Jews wandered from country to country and looked for another place to live. Some of the Jews got to Greece, and some to France. Some of them went to Morocco and others ended up in Turkey. Some even had their dreams come true and reached holy Eretz Yisrael!


Challos in the Aron HaKodesh - 2


Adapted by BenShel Abba
Illustrated by Gadi Pollack

~ Review by Cindy

This heartwarming adaptation of a classic Jewish folktale – tells the story of Yaakovo and his wife Esperanza, two Spanish Jews who were among a group who reached Eretz Yisrael.

Yaakovo and Esperanza were the simplest of Jews with a pure love and childlike faith in HaShem. Though they could daven (pray) in Hebrew, the only language they were able to speak or understand was Spanish.

One day while at shul (synagogue), Yaakovo hears the Rav speak of the twelve challos (or challot – special braided loaves of challah bread) which were baked and placed on the table in the Holy Temple each Shabbat and how, following Shabbat, the Kohanim (priests who served in the Temple) would eat the challos.*

Yaakovo, not quite understanding everything the Rav had said, rushes home to tell his wife that she needs to bake twelve holy and tasty challos because Hashem loves to get special challos for Shabbat. So starts this precious and sweet story of the simple hearted Yaakovo and his dear wife Esperanza whose challos were the most delicious of any to be found.

As with all of Gadi Pollacks books, his illustrations are so lifelike I find myself waiting to hear them speak or step off the page.

Challos In The Aron HaKodesh is a touching tale of a simple hearted love for G-d. It has a lesson about emunah (faith) and kindness for all ages. You can purchase this wonderful book from – Challos in the Aron HaKodesh.


* Exodus 25:30, Leviticus 24 5-9


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  

***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  

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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  

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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 

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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  

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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  

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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 

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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 





The Mysterious Guests,jpeg

A Sukkot Story
by Eric A. Kimmel

Illustrated by Katya Krenina

Eric Kimmel weaves an intriguing tale of two brothers. Ezra, the younger brother, was kind and generous. Ezra means ‘help’ and he lived up to his name. Eben, the elder brother, was rich and selfish. Eben means ‘stone’ and he lived up to his name, too!

The Mysterious Guests is built around the tradition of inviting our forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, among others, into our sukkahs each year. It is also built around the heart of the principle of hachnasat orchim (the welcoming of guests into one’s home, which is a fundamental Jewish value modeled by Abraham and Sarah in the book of Genesis). Just like Abraham and Sarah, we are called upon to warmly welcome guests and to provide for them with generosity and joy.

In The Mysterious Guests, we find three visitors looking for a few good menschen (people of integrity, openness, and honor). As these visitors come to each brother’s sukkah, they are welcomed in as ushpizin (guests). The two brothers’ hospitality toward their guests differs greatly, just like the appearance of each of their sukkahs. When taking their leave, the ushpizin bestow a blessing on the brothers which reflects not the beauty and richness of the brothers’ sukkahs, but rather the kindness and generosity – or lack thereof – in each brother’s heart.

The Mysterious Guests emphasizes the truth that giving with a miserly heart not only diminishes the gift, but also the giver. However, giving with a joyful heart enriches both the recipient of the gift and the giver.

This simple tale contains a beautiful message wrapped in the warmth of rich, autumn-toned illustrations.

May our sukkahs and our lives be beautiful both inside and out!

TheGardenSukkahPicture: * Rita Milos Brownstein, Jewish Holiday Style – A beautiful guide to celebrating the Jewish rituals in style, The Garden Sukkah

~ Cindy


What happens when six adventure-seeking sheep–plus one reluctant and “wooly wart” sheep– decide to leave the protection of their shepherd and head out into the big, wide world?

A Tale of Seven Sheep

A Tale Of Seven Sheep
by Gadi Pollack

This treasure of a book has layers that illustrate lessons of ife to both children and adults alike. Within one layer, that of historical/political application, we can view this whimsical tale as a parody of the time the nation of Israel currently finds herself in (July/August 2014) –a time when the nations are pressuring Israel to make peace with darkness, in fact with an enemy motivated by hatred and evil intent.

In this story, seven sheep find themselves deep in a forest and surrounded by –of all terrible and horrific things that make their wool stand on end– ferocious wolves! The sheep come up with many ‘baaaaaah’d plans to save themselves, such as this plan one sheep relays to the rest:

My fellow sheep, the wolves aren’t pursuing us for nothing. Something is obviously bothering them. Perhaps the problem lies with us. Let’s sit and talk things through with them, iron out our differences, and come to a settlement– which I’m sure they’ll be happy with. I am prepared to be our representative at the peace talks.

You can imagine how well those ‘peace’ talks went since the last thing the wolves were  interested in was peaceful, heart-to-heart dialogue.

A Tale of Seven Sheep contains magnificent illustrations. When my daughter was young, some of our favorite reads consisted of wordless books in which the wonderfully expressive illustrations alone told the story. Even though A Tale of Seven Sheep has witty text and a thoughtful storyline, the illustrations speak so clearly that they themselves could tell the story without the aid of the text. However, the text only adds to the depth and humor of the story!

Although, sadly, it is no longer in print, A Tale of Seven Sheep is a treasure worth finding. It sat on my wish list for a few years until I found a deal for $15. I purchased the book and discovered that it was well worth the wait! I encourage you to search for A Tale of Seven Sheep. A couple of places that currently sell copies of the book are and, but you can probably find copies elsewhere, too. 

Seven Sheep 1Seven Sheep 2

~ Cindy L. Elliott



“And these are the offspring of Aaron and Moshe on the day Hashem spoke with Moshe at Mount Sinai… ” Numbers 3:1

As we continue reading the third chapter of Numbers, we see that the only children listed are those of Aaron–and not those of Moshe. So why does G-d say that these are the offspring of Aaron and Moshe?

This question caught Rashi’s heart. In his commentary, Rashi teaches that the sons of Aaron are called the sons of Moshe because Moshe taught them Torah, and for anyone who teaches a child or student Torah, it is as if they also had given birth to that child for they are participating in the eternal life of his or her soul.

The children’s books we recommend are not only for parents or grandparents; they are for anyone who is entrusted with the gift of a child’s heart–the heart of a niece, nephew, neighbor, friend’s child, student…

Today’s recommended read is based on a ancient Jewish folk tale from Spain and teaches about partnering with G-d in His healing work — Tikkun Olam (repairing the world). 


bagels from benny

Bagels from Benny
by Aubrey Davis

Benny’s grandpa makes the BEST bagels in town. One morning while helping his grandpa in the bakery, Benny overhears a customer thank his grandpa for the bagels. His grandpa responds with, “Why thank me?” Grandpa’s response to the customer puzzles Benny.

Benny was puzzled.

“Why shouldn’t Mrs. Green thank you? You make the Bagels.”

Grandpa lifted Benny onto the counter.

“Benny,” he asked, “Aren’t bagels made with flour?”

“Yes,” said Benny.

“Doesn’t flour come from wheat?”

“Yes,” Benny nodded.

“Where does wheat come from?”

“From the earth,” answered Benny.

“And who made the earth?” “God did,” Benny replied.

Grandpa smiled. “Then thank God for the bagels.”

Benny takes his grandpa’s words to heart and what follows is precious.

In a children’s picture book, the illustrations are as important as the text itself–and maybe more so as they take the reader beyond the limits of words. Dušan Petrišcic does not disappoint with his tender and sweet watercolor, pen, and ink bagel-shaped illustrations. 


A good read is one that the reader continues going back to and learning from, and Bagels From Benny is one such book. As I mentioned above, the lesson of Tikkun Olam can be found in its pages. However, Bagels From Benny is ripe and ready for the gleaning of many other lessons, as well.

If this book leaves you craving a good homemade bagel, here is a recipe that I first enjoyed 18 years ago, and one that my daughter and I have made over the years since then.

*Thank you, Susan, for sharing this recipe.

This recipe calls for a bread machine, but you can knead the dough the old-fashioned way: by hand. This recipe is from The Bread Machine Cookbook by Donna Rathmell German (1991).

To make one dozen bagels, put the following ingredients into a bread machine:

1 cup warm water
1-1/2 tbsp. honey
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
1-1/2 tsp. yeast

Let the bread machine knead the dough once, and then let the dough rise 20 minutes–no more, no less–while still in the machine. Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll the pieces into a “rope,” and then into a circle by wetting the ends slightly with water and pressing them together.  Place the circles on a well-greased baking sheet, cover them, and then let them rise for 15-20 minutes–and no longer.

Meanwhile, bring 2 inches of water to a slight boil in a non-aluminum pan (a cast-iron pan works well). Carefully lower 3-4 bagels at a time into the water, cooking them about 30 seconds on each side.  Remove the bagels, set them on a towel to soak up extra water, and sprinkle with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, or dried onion bits (if desired). Place the bagels on the greased baking sheet.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 450 degrees for 7-8 minutes. Keep a watchful eye on the bottoms of the bagels–they brown and burn quickly.



~ Cindy


You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.*

One of the most precious privileges, and a most treasured memory in my heart, was teaching my daughter to welcome in the first morning light and to say hello to the moon and good night to the day with thankfulness to G-d, her Abba Father.

As a parent I would have loved at that time to have had the following two books. 






both by Sarah Gershman

Modeh Ani is a sweet adaptation of Shacharit, the daily morning prayer service.

The book begins:

Thank you God for waking me from sleep… 


The gentle pastel illustrations in combination with simple words perfectly convey concepts of the prayers to a young audience. The Sh’ma is included in Hebrew and transliterated. Other excerpts from the Morning Blessings, in both Hebrew and English, are included at the end of the book.

In this world where there is so much rush and hurry, this book can help create a special calmness at the beginning of each new day for both you and your child.

Sarah Gershman wrote Bedtime Sh’ma before Modeh Ani. Both books are illustrated by Kristina Swarner. You’ll find the same soothing pastel illustrations in both books.

Bedtime Sh’ma is an adaptation of Kriat Sh’ma al haMitah, the bedtime Sh’ma.

This very child-friendly book recognizes the vulnerability of children who are at times “scared of the dark.” Staying true to the original Hebrew texts, Gershman does a beautiful job of keeping in mind her young listeners.

I love the last words of the book…

I rest myself in God’s hand. God is with me and I am not afraid.


As with the Modeh Ani prayer, the Sh’ma is included in Hebrew and transliterated and you will find at the end of the book excerpts from the Bedtime Sh’ma in both Hebrew and English.

And just a reminder to those of us whose children are grown, who are either grandparents now or will be when the blessing of grandchildren comes:

Make them known to your children and your children’s children.**

We all, parents and teachers alike, have a responsibility to the next generation – our children’s children!

~ Cindy

*Deuteronomy 6:7

** Deuteronomy 4:9


“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness. For not only are we responsible for the memories of the dead, we are also responsible for what we are doing with those memories.” – Ellie Wiesel

Like the children who lived through the American tragedy of 9 -11, many in our (Keren and Cindy’s) age group grew up with a more organic exposure to the topic of the Holocaust. But as we Baby-boomers had children of our own, and our children have children of their own, the Holocaust moves further away. And the further away it moves, the more important it is to remember.

The best remembering would be to talk to survivors and many have done so, to those who were willing to talk, and painful but precious memories have been recorded. However, as there are fewer and fewer survivors still living, we now need to find other ways.

The following are two gentle resources — gentle in that they are less graphic in exposure – that are wonderful to use across many age groups — including children and seniors. 



Some day we shall outrun this hour,
Some day there will be comfort for us,
And hope again burst into flower,
And peace and guardian care restore us.
The jug of tears will break and spill,
And death be ordered: “Hush, be still!” [1] 



Fireflies in the Dark
The Story of Friedl Dicker Brandeis and the Children of Terezin

by Susan Goldman Rubin
*The front cover is a piece called Flowers and Butterflies painted by Margit Koretzova
(April 8, 1933-April 1944)

Prior to the Nazis take over in 1941, Terezin was a small Austrian town with about 7,000 residents. But between November of 1941-April 1945, Terezin housed more than 140,000 European Jews.

The Terezin (Theresienstadt) ghetto differed from all other ghettos as it was designed to deceive the outside world. In April of 1944, the Red Cross visited Terezin. To prepare for their visit the Nazis beautified the camp with roses, fresh paint (on buildings that lined the route the visitors would take), a playground, coffee shop… and 7, 500 sick and dying were shipped off to Auschwitz. Many of those shipped were orphaned children.

Terezin also differed as it was composed of European artists, musicians, and writers. One of those internees was artist Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. Friedl was a trained designer, artist, and teacher. At Terezin she organized art lessons encouraging the children to express their feelings in their work.

Friedl understood the power of art to sustain hope. She lovingly enabled her students to rise above their horrifying situations and find pleasure and dignity through art. [2] The story that lives on through the artwork and poetry of these children reveals “how flashes of kindness can spark joy — like fireflies in the dark.” [3]

This book offers a small glimpse of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and the children who passed through Terezin. The best way to describe Fireflies in the Dark — ‘quietly intense, filled with precious artwork that overwhelms the heart.’


1. Ivo Leo Katz (April 11, 1932-July 1944) started out as a good-natured, cheerful, eleven-year-old boy. But the terrible conditions at Terezin made him angry and violent. When he drew with Friedl, he circled every shape with heavy black lines.
2. Susan Goldman Rubin, Fireflies in the Dark, pg. 41
3. Ibid, front book flap



The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow,
Perhaps if the sun’s tears would sing
against a white stone…

Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly ‘way up high.
It went away I’m sure because it wished to
kiss the world good-bye.

For seven weeks I’ve lived here,
Penned up inside this ghetto.
But I have found what I love here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut branches in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.

That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don’t live in here,
in the ghetto.

1942 Pavel Friedmann
Pavel was born on January 7, 1921, in Prague and deported to Terezin on April 26, 1943. He died in Auschwitz on September 29, 1944.


…I never saw another butterfly…
Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944

Edited by Hana Volavkovd

Of the 15,000 children who passed through Terezin, only 100 survived. But these children left a legacy, a testimony to their lives and spirits. Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, before being shipped to Auschwitz, buried 4500 of pieces of work in two suitcases. Others were found hidden in mattresses and stuffed in cracks between the walls. Many of these drawings were used as clues during the Nuremberg Trials.

This collection allows us to see what life was like in Terezin, through the eyes of children. A heart rending look at the misery, sadness, and fear of these innocents as well as their courage, their hopes, and their fears.



Terezin is full of beauty.
It’s in your eyes now clear
And through the street the tramp
Of many marching feet I hear.

In the ghetto at Terezin,
It looks that way to me,
Is a square kilometer of earth
Cut off from the world that’s free.

Death, after all, claims everyone,
You find it everywhere.
It catches up with even those
Who wear their noses in the air.

The whole, wide world is ruled
With a certain justice, so
That helps perhaps to sweeten
The poor man’s pain and woe.

Miroslav Košek
Miroslav was born on March 30, 1942 in Bohemia and deported to Terezin on
February 15, 1942. He died on October 19, 1944 at Auschwitz.


I am a Jew and will be a Jew forever.
Even if I should die from hunger,
never will I submit.
I will always fight for my people,
on my honor.
I will never be ashamed of them;
I give my word.

I am proud of my people,
how dignified they are.
Even though I am suppressed,
I will always come back to life.

Franta Bass
Franta was born in Prague on September 9, 1929, and deported to Terezin on
December 8, 1943. He died at Auschwitz on October 8, 1944. 

guard with a stick

Guard with a Stick by Soña Spitzová
Soña was born on February 17, 1931, and deported to Terezin from Prague on December 10, 1941. She was sent to Auschwitz on October 6, 1944, where she perished. 


A detail from Butterflies by Marika Friedmanová
Marika was born on April 19, 1933, and deported to Terezin on August 3, 1942.
She perished in Auschwitz in 1944.

flowers in a vase

Flowers in Jar by Erika Taussig
Erika was born in Prague on October 28, 1934, and was deported to Terezin on December 17, 1941. She died at Auschwitz on October 16, 1944.

~ Cindy and Keren


This is THE FEAST that Mama made
with the matzah that Papa brought home.
This is THE PASSOVER SEDER we shared
to eat the feast that Mama made
with the matzah that Papa brought home.
This is ME standing tall and proud
to ask the Four Questions nice and loud
during the Passover Seder we shared
to eat the feast that Mama made
with the matzah that Papa brought home… 

The Matzah That Papa Brought Home

The Matzah That Papa Brought Home

by Fran Manushkin

Inspired by Chad Gadyoh, the lyrical text and warm illustrations make this a part of our family seder each year. In the author’s own words:

“When I was a child, nobody told me what the seder was about. My father stood at the head of the table, holding a glass of wine and talking in Hebrew, a language that I didn’t understand. All I knew about Passover was that I was to take salami-and-matzah sandwiches to school. So I wrote this book to offer young children of today a child’s eye-view of their family’s seder. It tells them all they need to know about the holiday, in a lively format.” 



Illustrator Ned Bittinger does a beautiful job of capturing life and all the warmth and fun of this family celebration.

~ Cindy