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The Dreidel that Wouldn't Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah Hardcover – October 1, 2014
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From School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—In this gentle parable, a peddler gives a splendorous Hanukkah dreidel to the greedy owner of a toy shop with the admonishment that "…the miracle of Hanukkah cannot be bought." In turn, the shopkeeper sells the one-of-a-kind dreidel to a wealthy man at a substantial price, but the next day the man and his spoiled daughter return it, demanding their money back because the dreidel will not spin. A similar scenario ensues with a mother and son who have the same complaint, yet the shopkeeper finds that he can spin the dreidel without trouble. Confused, he puts it away, until a poor man and his son enter the shop, content simply to look at all the wonderful toys. Moved by their humble and gracious manner, the shopkeeper hands the dreidel to the boy, who is able to twirl it for several minutes, causing the message on it to transform from the traditional "A great miracle happened there" to "A small miracle happened here." Folkloric watercolor illustrations in a pale palette are appropriately soft in tone while images of the toys offering their own expressive impressions of the goings-on inject a bit of humor. A lovely choice for those wishing to circumvent the more commercial aspects of the holiday.—Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library
Simpson uses familiar European folk-tale motifs, which Bernhard matches with paintings of an Old World setting; both illustrate how humility outshines greed and arrogance. Backmatter explains the real miracle of Hanukkah and the holiday’s significance as well as rules for playing dreidel. A sweet original tale with a timeless, though not holiday-specific message. (Kirkus Reviews)
K-Gr 2– In this gentle parable, a peddler gives a splendorous Hanukkah dreidel to the greedy owner of a toy shop with the admonishment that '...the miracle of Hanukkah cannot be bought'… Folkloric watercolor illustrations in a pale palette are appropriately soft in tone while images of the toys offering their own expressive impressions of the goings-on inject a bit of humor. A lovely choice for those wishing to circumvent the more commercial aspects of the holiday. (School Library Journal)
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Greed and instant gratification are universal themes that affect both the young and the old. Prime examples of this negative behavior are initially seen in the shopkeeper as well as the first couple of children who enter the store.
Early on the shopkeeper sets the tone when he states,
… I am more concerned with turning a profit than I am in miracles.
The parents in the first two scenarios give in to their children’s rude and demanding behavior. Instead of simply putting limits on the number of holiday gifts, the affluent parents appease their children’s whims. Both children are fascinated by a stunning dreidel. Each forces a parent to purchase the dreidel. In both cases, the spoiled children are disappointed that the dreidel will not spin. The parents return the dreidel.
Toward the end of the story, the storekeeper is touched by a poor child’s appreciation of merely being able to look at the store’s toys. He offers the defective dreidel to the boy. Apprehensively, he accepts the gift. When the boy spins the dreidel, the Hebrew letters are magically changed. The nun, gimmel, hay and shin have now become nun, koof, hay and shin. The meaning of the traditional acronym had been transformed to “A small miracle happened here.”
The attitude and behavior of the storeowner has been altered. He no longer looks at life as a series of monetary transactions.
Durga Yael Bernhard’s watercolor illustrations add to the beauty of the story. She captures the unique charm of village life and provides useful picture clues to anyone who is listening to the story or attempting to read the book on their own. The placement of the pictures and the oversize text makes the book reader friendly.
Anyone unfamiliar with Hanukkah or the dreidel game will appreciate the Author’s Note and Appendix. Both provide useful and accurate information.
This picture book would be a wonderful addition for a home, school, or public library.
In exchange for an honest interview and review, I was sent a copy of The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin.
Except not always. In a huff, the rich man returns the dreidel the very next day – the darn thing won’t spin! Odd, the shopkeeper thinks, as he spins the dreidel. Nonetheless, he marks down the price and pawns it off on a well-fed woman and her well-fed son. And, surprise, the dreidel comes back the very next day – it won’t spin!
And then the shabbily dressed man and his son beg the indulgence of the shopkeeper – could they, perhaps, just be permitted a few minutes to behold the joys of the toy store? Well, since there are no other customers this close to Hanukkah, why not let the riff-raff in? And since the shopkeeper happens to have a defective dreidel on his hands, why not let the kid have it? And I’m sure you can guess what happens.
Although the Message is a bit heavy-handed, this is a charming book, not only for Jewish kids, but kids of all religious backgrounds (or no religion at all). For non-Jewish kids, it’s a nice introduction to the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah and the meaning of the holiday, complete with learning a few Hebrew letters and words. It’s a simple story about appreciating one’s blessings and seeing value beyond monetary value.
And like all Wisdom Press books, the book itself is very high-quality. It is well illustrated in an engaging way that captures the time period, the culture and the feel of the story. The cover is sturdy, the pages are thick and glossy, and it even comes complete with a wonderful new book smell. Wisdom Press books are designed to be treasured and shared through generations at different stages of your children’s (and children’s children’s) lives as they mature and gain more from each reading. No matter your cultural background, this is a fine addition to your child’s library to encourage a global and harmonious perspective.
Please note, I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes
This is a beautiful story - filled with beautiful artwork - that is a great read for every one, no matter how old they are, and not just those who celebrate Hanukkah. The end made me smile through the tears that fell on my cheeks. The author's note and appendix at the end give some extra information as well as teach you how to play the game.
Note: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.