With the publication of several excellent, new Hanukkah books, I thought I’d share these and other favorite picture books to read with kids during this holiday season. I don’t just recommend these books for Jewish families who celebrate the holiday either. We all can learn about the history and holiday of Hanukkah even if we aren’t Jewish because it builds bridges of understanding with our Jewish friends and neighbors.
Favorite Hanukkah Books for Kids
Meet the Latkes by Alan Silberberg
I LOVE this new picture book! It’s got everything — a great story, hilarity throughout, and interesting information about the holiday of Hanukkah. Oh, and the perfect ending, too. It’s about the Latke family: Mama, Papa, Lucy, Lex, a teenager who doesn’t leave his room, Applesauce, the dog, and lovable, mixed-up Grandpa. As the family begins to prepare for their Hanukkah celebration, Grandpa shares stories about the holiday. Grandpa weaves quite a tale with an exasperated Applesauce interjecting the correct facts.
“Lucy’s eyes and mouth are open wide. “So the miracle of Chanukah is that a long time ago Mega-Bees turned alien potatoes into latkes?!” You’ll eventually get the real story from Applesauce but I doubt you’ll forget any of the sillier version’s details.
My First Jewish Baby Book by Julie Merberg and Beck Feiner
Although this isn’t a Hanukkah book per se, it would be a fantastic gift book to give to a young reader during the celebration of Hanukkah. This rhyming alphabet book begins with “A is for AFIKOMEN. The AFIKOMEN is hidden before the seder. (It’s a piece of matzo you hunt for later.)” Some pages have more than one word for the letter — B is for bagels, babka, brisket, borscht, beets, bris, Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah, and bubbe. It’s both serious and playful with Menorah and Rosh Hashanah to Oy Vey and Verklempt. The colorful, graphic art throughout makes this a winning combination of content and visuals.
D is for Dreidel: A Hanukkah Alphabet by Greg Paprocki
This is a must-own Hanukkah alphabet book your kids will enjoy reading again and again. I particularly love the sixties style illustrations. A family with two children celebrates the holiday of Hanukkah from a to z as the text begins, “A is for alphabet // B is for blessing // C is for candles” and continues to “Y is for yontiff // Z is for zaide”. The words and pictures will give you and your kids many opportunities to discuss important traditions and meaning. It would also be a great book for beginning readers to read aloud to friends and family.
My First Chanukah by Tomie dePaola
The narrator shares simple information about the holiday for babies and toddlers. It begins, “Chanukah is the Feast of Lights. Every year we celebrate it for eight nights.” dePaola’s lovely folk art watercolors show a house, a menorah, candles, and more.
Chanukah Lights by Michael Rosen and Robert Sabuda
This pop-up book is a work of art! Beautiful doesn’t even begin to describe the sensations and feelings this paper art evokes in the reader. Chanukah’s Lights is about the history of the Jewish people as they search for a homeland and rebuild their communities told through the lens of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. However, the text is so simple that it doesn’t really explain the illustrations or the meaning of the holiday.
Maccabee! The Story of Hanukkah by Tilda Balsley, illustrated by David Harrington
Rhyming text shares the story of how Judah and his army of Maccabees stood up to the Greek King Antiochus for the right to worship their own god. I’m not a huge fan of the rhyming but really do like the super-hero retelling and illustrations of the actual historical event that led to the Hanukkah holiday.
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
Not only do I love this classic story because it celebrates a Jewish folk hero and folklore (goblins) but it’s a great story that shows how intelligence can outwit tricky adversaries. Goblins have taken over the synagogue so Hershel determines to stop them so that the villagers can light the candles and celebrate Hanukkah.
Hanukkah Bear by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
Bubba Brayna doesn’t see or hear very well so she doesn’t realize that her house guest isn’t the rabbi. But readers know. Kids will crack up as they watch a bear enjoying Bubba Brayna’s delicious cooking, playing the dreidel game, and helping light the menorah. When the rabbi arrives later in the evening with other neighbors, they’ll figure out who the earlier, mysterious guest really was.
Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Tany Simon and Richard Simon, illustrated by Mark Siegel
Fleeing the Nazi persecution in Europe, Oskar comes to New York City alone and with only a photo and an address for his aunt. He arrives on the 7th day of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve. As he walks over 100 blocks to find his aunt’s address, he feels tired, hungry, and cold yet he is welcomed with beautiful, small acts of kindness. Atmospheric illustrations set the scene in this heart-warming story you can read any time of year.
Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Hanukkah by Deborah Heiligman
Simple text introduces the holiday using color photographs that show how people around the world celebrate. You’ll also find directions to make a menorah, a recipe for potato latkes, and instructions to play the dreidel game.
What are your family’s favorite Hanukkah books?