Chanukah Gifts & Food: New Chanukah kids books: high seas adventures, food and fun

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An imaginative historical tale of adventure set on the high seas will captivate young readers this Chanukah season.

“Emanuel and the Hanukkah Rescue” is one of a few new children’s books for the Festival of Lights, which begins this year the evening of Dec. 8. Meanwhile, two fun-filled books aim to get food-loving kids of all ages into the kitchen with tantalizing menus while offering other fun holiday activities.


“Emanuel and the Hanukkah Rescue”

Right from the opening pages, young readers will know they’re in for something out of the ordinary. Set in the 18th century whaling port of New Bedford, Mass., the fictionalized historical tale by Heidi Smith Hyde tells the story of a spirited 9-year-old Jewish boy named Emanuel Aguilar, whose father is a merchant selling sailing supplies and other provisions to the city’s whalers.

“Papa, when will I be old enough to go to sea?” Emanuel asks his father, who cautions his son against the dangers of whaling.

Emanuel yearns to place the family menorah in the window during Chanukah but his father is fearful, recalling the tragedy of the Inquisition in his home country of Portugal, where Jews were not free to practice their faith.

“This isn’t Portugal, Papa. This is America!” Emanuel protests, reminding his father that Chanukah celebrates religious freedom.

On the last day of Chanukah, Emanuel stows away aboard a whaling ship, leaving a note for his papa explaining his hope to be free. But a sudden and vicious storm transforms the fun adventure, as Emanuel learns firsthand the dangers of the sea. By story’s end, the reunited father and son find hope and courage in the light of Chanukah and its power to inspire freedom.

Artist Jamel Akib’s richly colored pastel paintings cast a luminous glow across the landscape. His highly detailed, realistic illustrations put readers into the story, from the interiors of the merchant shop and the family home to the dramatic scenes at sea.

Hyde was inspired to create the story after reading an article about Jewish involvement in New Bedford’s whaling industry. Jews were an integral part of the industry in New England coastal areas, she learned, serving as merchants, candle exporters and ship owners. Some Jews in the region practiced their faith in secret.

Hyde says she was struck by the parallels with Chanukah, with its themes of the miracle of the oil and religious freedom. In “Emanuel,” she wanted to explore what it means to hide one’s identity.

“Mostly, I want kids to realize that it’s important to be themselves, not to be afraid of who they are,” she said.

“Hanukkah Sweets and Treats”

This colorful book offers step-by-step instructions for six holiday recipes, including Luscious Latkes, Easy Applesauce, Fudgy Gelt and a Cupcake Menorah. The large-print format with lots of photographs and graphics opens with a two-page spread, “Before You Begin Cooking,” with lists of what you will need, safety precautions, and even a section on how to use measuring spoons.

Boxed sidebars offer little-known facts on the history of apples, a note on the nutrition of potatoes (must be before they’re fried in oil) and this astonishing statistic: The largest bakery in Israel produces up to 250,000 sufganiyot (Israeli-style filled doughnuts) on each of the eight days of Chanukah. A simple glossary defines words such as dough, Maccabees, vitamin and Yiddish.


“Maccabee Meals: Food and Fun for Hanukkah”

Authors Judye Groner and Madeline Wikler know a thing or two about kids and fun for the Jewish holidays. The pair have co-written more than two dozen books, including their first, “My Very Own Haggadah,” that has sold more than 2 million copies.

“Maccabee Meals” features large, easy-to-read print, lots of lively illustrations and a selection of enticing, unique recipes such as Waffle Latkes with yogurt, or Chocolate Star Dreidels. Inter-spersed with the recipes and drawings are short stories and other Chanukah facts. One box tells readers that Chanukah and Christmas coincide once every 38 years. Who knew?

All recipes are marked with a dreidel symbol indicating whether they are dairy, meat or parve — and with a dreidel score ranging from no-cooking ease to the harder use of hot stove with an adult. Instructions for crafts, playing dreidel and candle blessings complete the book. Parents will likely appreciate the page on party etiquette and this one-liner: “Remember, good cooks always leave the kitchen neat and clean.”

Look for other other new Chanukah children’s books as well. Kar-Ben, for example, has many — including the sweet “Jeremy’s Dreidel,” which includes directions for crafts projects; and “The Count’s Hanukkah Countdown,” featuring Sesame Street characters.


“Emanuel and the Hanukkah Rescue” by Heidi Smith Hyde (32 pages, Kar-Ben Publishing, $17.95 hardcover; $7.95 paperback) Ages 5-9

“Hanukkah Sweets and Treats” by Ronne Randall (32 pages, Windmill Books, $26.50) Ages 8-11

“Maccabee Meals: Food and Fun for Hanukkah” by Judye Groner and Madeline Wikler (64 pages, Kar-Ben Publishing, $8.95) Ages 7-12.