December 16 – First Night of Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah!

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. The first of the eight candles is lit at sundown and the story of the Macabees is retold in many households.


Maccabee! The Story of Hanukkah written by Tilda Balsley and illustrated by David Harrington (2014)

The story of a Hanukkah miracle is told in verse about Mattathias and his son, Judah who led the Jews in revolt of the Greek King Antiochus, who had ordered everyone in Jerusalem to worship the Greek gods. Judah led an army to defeat the Greeks. And although King Antiochus withdrew his troops, they had destroyed the temple. Judah and the people worked to rebuild the temple. The found the menorah but only had enough oil for one night. However, the miracle of the oil that burned for eight nights is remembered today by Jews around the world. And the refrain is echoed throughout the story, ‘Sometimes it only takes a few, Who know what’s right, and do it, too.’


One of my favorite Hanukkah stories was published over 25 years ago.


The Chanukkah Guest written by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Giora Carmi (1988)

One Chanukkah, Old Bear woke from his deep sleep. He smelled good things to eat and followed his nose to Bubba Brayna’s house. Now Bubba Brayna was quite old and almost blind. She was expecting guests that evening, and she was very excited that the Rabbi was coming too.  Bubba Brayna had made twice as many latkes as usual for the party. She was just finishing up the preparations when she heard the first knock on her door. It was Old Bear who growled and shook the snow from his fur coat. Bubba Brayna, thinking he was the Rabbi, welcomed him into the house and offered to take his coat. Old Bear growled and Bubba Brayna laughed and led him to the kitchen. Old Bear growled as Bubba Brayna went about lighting the first candle on the menorah and mumbled the blessing. Then Bubba Brayna played a game of dreidel with Old Bear who roared when Bubba Brayna won all the nuts on the table. Finally, it was time to bring in the latkes. Bubba Brayna set a steaming plate of latkes on the table and laughed as Old Bear gobbled them all down. As Old Bear was ready to leave, Bubba Brayna wrapped a red woolen scarf she had knitted herself, around his neck and sent him home with wishes for a Happy Chanukkah. Soon afterward, Bubba Brayna heard another knock on her door, it was all her friends and neighbors wishing her Shalom and Happy Chanukkah. Bubba Brayna had to tell them that the Rabbi had come by earlier and had eaten all the latkes. Well, Bubba Brayna knew something was strange because the Rabbi was standing right there in the crowd. Then the children noticed the bear tracks in the kitchen and everyone realized that Bubba Brayna had mistaken a bear for the Rabbi. They all had a fright and a laugh, and Bubba Brayna made up a new batch of latkes for her family and friends while Old Bear went back to sleep in his den with a warm woolen scarf tied around his neck.


Here are some newer Hanukkah books.


Beautiful Yetta’s Hanukkah Kitten written by Daniel Pinkwater and illustrated by Jill Pinkwater (2014)

Yetta is a chicken who escaped the market and lives on the streets in Brooklyn. She is friends with the parrots who were once pets, but now live wild. One cold Hanukkah night, Yetta hears a strange sound. It is a kitten. Yetta asks the Parrots to help her take care of them, but they do not know how to care for a kitten. Then Yetta has an idea, she pecks on the window of an old grandmother and speaks to her in Yiddish. The grandmother comes to the door and lets the kitten in. Then grandmother tells Yetta and the parrots to wait by the window, and she brings them latkes to eat that night.


Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster written by Jane Sutton and illustrated by Andy Rowland (2013)

On the morning of the first night of Hanukkah, Esther remembers that she has not bought a single present for her friends so she goes out and does a mad shopping trip all in one afternoon. She hurries home and wraps her gifts. Then she lights her first Hanukkah candle and says a blessing. Finally, she is ready to deliver her gifts. However, every gift is wrong in one way or another. The socks she bought for  Sarah, the monkey are too big. The turtleneck sweater she bought for Zach, the zebra is the wrong color. The jogging suit she bought for  Josephine, the turtle is unnecessary. The joke book she bought for Oscar, the elephant is insensitive.  And the jungle gym set she bought for Hal, the hyena is useless. Esther went home feeling unhappy, because every gift she gave was wrong, but each one of her friends had given her a thoughtful and fabulous gift. That night Esther had another idea. She sent all of her friends invitations to her house on the eighth night of Hanukkah. She told them all to bring back the gifts she had given them. Then on the last night of Hanukkah, Esther had a wonderful party for her friends. At the end of the party, she had each one give the gift she had given them to someone else. So Sarah gave the huge socks to Oscar, the elephant. Hal gave the jungle gym to Sarah, the monkey. Josephine gave the jogging suit to Zach, the zebra. Oscar gave the joke book to Hal, the Hyena. And Zack gave the turtleneck sweater to Josephine, the turtle.  Now everyone was happy with their gifts and Esther’s Hanukkah party was a huge success.

And my new favorite Hanukkah story isn’t new after all… it’s the story of The Chanukkah Guest, my old favorite! This new version was published last year with new illustrations, but the same wonderful story!

17168572Hanukkah Bear written by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka (2013)

And a new favorite from Eric Kimmel…


Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale written by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Matthew Trueman (2014)

Read the full summary and recommendation HERE.

2 Responses to “December 16 – First Night of Hanukkah”

  1. Patricia Tilton December 19, 2014 at 12:41 PM #

    Oh, what a wonderful selection of Hanukkah books. I read Yetta and didn’t review it this year. I tried to select something representing each culture. But, I’m going to have to read Hanukkah Bear and Chanukka Bear — what a hoot. I love the idea of old lady and the rabbi. Thanks for sharing!


    • Juliana Lee December 19, 2014 at 2:38 PM #

      Me too, Pat. It was a silliness kids like us appreciate!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: