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Four Sides, Eight Nights: A New Spin on Hanukkah Hardcover – August 11, 2005

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Gr. 2-4. Here's a surprise: there's more to know about dreidels than the meaning of Hebrew letters on their sides. The tops take center stage in this book, which begins with a concise review of the holiday and the role of dreidels. Tidbits follow: what tops are made from, how the game is played, the science of spinning, and more. Sandwiched between are stories of two heroines recognized during Hanukkah (Judith, who saved her people by severing Holophernes' head, and Hannah, who stripped naked to make a political point). It's good (and unusual) to see women getting attention in a Hanukkah book, but the tales are an odd fit given the focus on dreidels. A chapter on holiday food is also problematic: the suggestions for updating traditional potato pancakes sound intriguing (crushed pineapple, peanut butter), but without proportions (or even a basic latke recipe) to refer to, they aren't practical. A scattering of thumbnail facts and cartoon sketches liven up the book, which, despite a few blips still delivers some intriguing information and a little fun. Stephanie Zvirin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

About the Author

Rebecca Tova Ben-Zvi makes her latkes with sweet potatoes and plays dreidel year-round. Writing as Rebecca O'Connell, she is the author of The Baby Goes Beep. A librarian and storyteller, she lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Susanna Natti lives in Bedford, Massachusetts, and hums the dreidel song when she's making potato latkes for her family. Jim-the dog stays close and hopes for extras.


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press; First Edition edition (September 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596430591
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596430594
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,669,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Heidi Estrin on March 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This guidebook to dreidels in particular and Hanukkah in general is a breath of fresh air. The history, science, art, and music of dreidels are all addressed. Explanations of Hanukkah's history and current customs provide context. Sidebars provide extra information, and spot illustrations are often used to expand upon the text. Jewish history, values, and spirituality are all addressed. The violence of some of the history is mentioned, but descriptions are not graphic.

The tone is friendly and accessible without being condescending. While slightly confusing, the multiple voices describing various family customs add a hands-on feeling to the book. In the promised "new spin," the author suggests the top eight betting units for playing dreidel, everything from macadamia nuts (sounds like "Maccabees") to the traditional gelt. She also suggests alternative ingredients to fry up as latkes, such as crushed pineapple! If a bit of a stretch, such ideas are also refreshingly creative.

Chapter 3, "How to Play" is more about style of play than instruction. Surprisingly, the book offers no explicit directions. Astute readers, however, will notice the sidebar at the beginning of Chapter 2 that explains "The Dreidel Code" and will be able to figure out the rules from that. Also surprisingly, the book includes no instructions for making one's own dreidel.

The black and white sketch illustrations are charming. The anonymous characters are highly expressive, and a multicultural cast is portrayed, sometimes in kippot, sometimes not.

This unique book would be a perfect holiday gift for the child who always wants to know "why?" and "how does it work?
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Format: Hardcover
This book was fun to read. It is playful, informative, and inspirational. Lots of intriguing tidbits are mixed in with good stories. Find out how the dreidel saved lives! Word play throughout makes the book even more fun. It is a nice blend of history and science and customs. I bought it for my kids and all of my nieces and nephews. It helps to deepen understanding of hanukkah in a fun way. And both the author's and illustrator's styles were fresh and accessible. A very good book!
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Format: Paperback
Four Sides, Eight Nights is a delightful book that celebrates the Jewish holiday, Hanukkah. It's sure to please children with its wit and charming pictures, and in truth, adults will enjoy it, too. This book is a perfect gift, and I plan to give several.
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