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Eight Winter Nights: A Family Hanukkah Book Hardcover – October 27, 2010
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From School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1–A family's preparations for and celebration of Hanukkah are described in short, informal verse, from the two-line “Third Night” (“At our window we will show/How warmly our three candles glow) to the bouncy, eight-line poem celebrating a favorite latke go-with (“Applesauce, applesauce on your nose./Applesauce, applesauce on your toes…”). Pencil and pastel cartoon-style illustrations depict a smiling extended family talking, eating, and playing together amid warm glowing colors and the symbols of the holiday. A short description and history of Hanukkah are appended. A pleasant if nonessential addition to the holiday shelf.Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
The story opens with a family bustling about, cleaning house in preparation for Hanukkah and, after sunset, lighting the first candle. Melmed traces their eight nights together in a cycle of 25 short, individual poems, often two or three on a double-page spread. Though they differ in tone, rhyme scheme, and length of lines, the poems create a continuous flow from verse to verse and page to page. The verse and illustrations work well together, depicting the relatives as they gather to light the candles, share traditional foods and games, and enjoy the pleasure of one another’s company. Created with pencil and pastels, the illustrations use plenty of curved lines and deep, warm colors to depict the celebrations in this lively, amiable household. The final double-page spread offers the biblical story of the holiday’s origins and a Hanukkah traditions glossary of words such as dreidel, gelt, and Tzedakah. This inviting picture book ends with the family sleeping tight, / wrapped in dreams / of candlelight. Preschool-Grade 3. --Carolyn Phelan
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One of my favorite scenes showed what happened when the characters received some special visitors on one of the nights of Hannukah. Everyone looked so happy when that happened, especially the children. I smiled when I saw the joy on their faces in the illustration that was included in this section. They were clearly planning to have a wonderful time that night, and I looked forward to seeing what would happen to them next.
I would have liked to see longer explanations of why the characters were lighting the candles in that specific order and what the meanings were of certain rituals. This is the perfect age for children to begin learning basic facts about the holidays their families celebrate. These rhymes didn’t quite have enough details for my tastes.
With that being said, the rhymes were adorable and definitely a lot of fun to read. I loved the fact that they included so many references to active things young readers can do while listening to an adult read this book. It was a great choice for this age group. I wanted to sway to the music and bounce to the beat, too, while I was reading it.
Eight Winter Nights: A Family Hanukkah Book was a cute introduction to how this holiday is celebrated. I’d recommend it to anyone who is looking for a playful way to discuss that topic with their kids.
originally posted at long and short ya reviews
"Eight Winter Nights" is not a storybook, it is a series of little rhymes strung together loosely like beads where the string is the procession from the first to the eighth night of Chanuka.
On a first level, the book reviews the most common holiday customs and activities a child can expect to experience in a Chanuka week -- dreidels, menorahs, cousins coming over, music, gifts, traditional holiday foods. As a way of gently preparing the littlest ones for a holiday they are too young to remember from years past, this works well.
On a second level, the rhyming couplets and friendly illustrations depict a comfortable, secure, even nostalgic Chanuka spent with family. What I liked best was the focus on time together reading, singing, playing and cleaning up the house, rather than on getting presents. ("Opening Presents" appears only on the seventh night, paired with "Tzedakah" [Charity] -- a subtle expression of non-materialistic values which I appreciate.)
"Eight Winter Nights" won't win any awards for its poetry, and the occasional burst of whimsy shoots right over the heads of my in-house preschool audience. That said, the kids found the rhymes a relaxing accompaniment to the delightful illustrations, and wanted to hear the book again -- a good sign of success.
The publisher is recommending this book for ages 4-8; in my judgment, the book works well as a Chanuka experience for children 1-4 years old (older children will be underwhelmed by the text).
"Eight Winter Nights: A Family Hanukkah Book" makes a good choice as a gift for a family with small children, especially as it is written without preference to any stream of Judaism.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of "Eight Winter Nights" from the publisher, Chronicle Books.