Kids light up with singing menorah, wise-guy dreidel

Who says there's nothing new under the sun? When it comes to kids and holidays, toy manufacturers will always come up with something new to put on the shelf. This year the kids Chanukah gift market features talking and singing toys.

There's Manny the Menorah, a plastic, battery-operated menorah with candles that light just by touching them, and it plays "Ma'oz Tzur" — the whole thing. Myra Kaplan of Afikomen in Berkeley says it's the perfect gift for those who cannot yet be trusted with matches but want their own menorah. Eileen Velen of L'Chaim in Danville says it's also a good gift for college students who are not allowed to have candles in their rooms.

There also are several new singing stuffed animals. There's an Elvis-type dog, a teddy bear in a cowboy hat and a dreidel. They all have guitars and sing "The Dreidel Song" with the push of a button. It's a gift that will delight children and drive parents crazy.

Then there's the wise-guy dreidel. You use it just like a regular dreidel except this one tells you what to do when the letters come up. On shin it says, "Oy vey, you have to pay." On hey it says, "Hee-haw, you win half." Nun is, "It's a nothing. What's the matter with you?" and gimel is "You win. Take it all. Take it. Take it, yea."

"He's really annoying," says Ellen Bob, one half of the Bobs at bob and bob in Palo Alto. The recorded voice is shrill, loud and grating. "It's $10 and comes with extra batteries. Aren't you lucky! It's the kind of gift you give your nephew if you really don' t like your brother."

For something a little quieter, Nurit Sabadosh of Alef Bet in Los Gatos recommends stacking dreidels. There are five in all and the challenge is to get them stacked and all spinning at the same time.

On the tamer side are plastic bubbles with either Winnie-the-Pooh or Mickey Mouse inside that wind up and play "Ma'oz Tzur."

Macca Beans are back for the second year. This year's models include Katuba the Cat, Simcha the Stork, Macubby the Teddy Bear, Kibbitz the Parrot, Kvetch the Dog, Kiddish the Lamb, Chupah the Hippo and Tsir Hiss the Snake. Similar to their secular counterpart, Beanie Babies, these little stuffed animals are collectibles and are available at L'Chaim.

Whatever your child's interest, there's a menorah to match it. There are helicopters, airplanes, motorcycles, bicycles, trains, giraffes, cats, kittens, dinosaurs, Noah's ark and almost anything else you can think of. And if all else fails you can get a make-your-own menorah kit.

If you're having a party you may want to pick up a box of Chanukah "crackers" or "poppers." These party favors pop when they're pulled apart and release little trinkets like a dreidel, a paper hat or a joke. There also are novelty candles. Afikomen has one that's shaped like a Star of David and another like a dreidel. Multiple layers of two colors of wax make up these freestanding candles, which make great decorations. L'Chaim has gel candles, which Velen says are selling like crazy. These candles have dreidels inside, which come out as the candle burns down.

For children's entertainment, Sabadosh recommends the CD "All About Chanukah in Story and Song." Peninnah Scharm does the storytelling. Ilene Safyan and Margie Rosenthal provide the songs. Or you can fall back on last year's hit, "Reggae Chanukah" by Alan Eder and Friends.

Two new Chanukah books this year are "Jason's Miracle" by Beryl Benderly, a good chapter book for 10- to 12-year-olds, and "Jar of Fools" by Eric Kimmel, which has a Chelm story for each night of the holiday. (Chelm is the name of a legendary town inhabited by foolish but endearing people.)

And if it's Chanukah chachkas you want, there's no shortage of those either. There are Chanukah yo-yos, socks, key-chain flashlights, trinket boxes, mitzvah purses, Star of David bubble blowers, super balls, Jewish power beads and skateboarding dreidels. Or you can buy a decorate-your-own dreidel kit, which comes with a wooden dreidel, four colors of paint and a brush.

But what about Mom, you might ask after all the shopping is done and the latkes made? How about a box of fine Israeli kosher chocolates made by Max Brenner. Brenner, who studied chocolate-making in France, produces chocolate candy that, according to Kaplan, is on a par with Godiva. Right now, she said, Afikomen is the only California source for the chocolates.

Other Chanukah & Kids Stories

Public waves capture Chanukah fare for all ages

Ending wrapping-paper war with non-Jewish relatives

Emigre teens in Israel make transition to Chanukah

The evergreen issue arises again for interfaith families

'Maoz Tsur' a tune that's much more than meets the ear

Books shine a light on Chanukah's meanings

Got gelt? Chanukah offers spending lesson

Learning Torah with 7-year-old, Dad achieves his dream

Family education expanding, but earns average grades

Yummy recipes, tempting projects fill the pages of a new holiday book

New array of children's books revitalizes old legends

New kids' book examines Shabbat's everlasting light

Chanukah is a chance to bring light into the world