Hanukkah is right around the corner! In honor of the Festival of Lights, I’m delighted to share a list of my favorite Hanukkah-themed picture books.
Whether you celebrate Hanukkah in your home or you simply want to expose your children to other cultures and traditions, these 15 books are worth checking out.
It’s the last night of Hanukkah and Rachel’s mother is flipping latkes left and right. When extra holiday guests lead to a potato shortage, Rachel decides to borrow a bag of potatoes from their elderly neighbor Mrs. Greenburg. Rachel is determined to convince Mrs. Greenburg, who is all alone, to join her family for Hanukkah dinner. This heartwarming story delivers a message of thoughtfulness, kindness, and generosity.
This uplifting story centers on the traditional Hanukkah custom tzedakah, which means giving to people in need. When Sara notices an old man eating a bruised apple from a box of discarded fruit, she wonders if he is hungry. The next day, Sara leaves the man a cookie saved from her lunch. When the local rabbi tells Sara that the old man lives alone, she asks her mother if the man can join them for Hanukkah dinner. Colorful painted illustrations and an inspiring message make this book one that the whole family will enjoy.
In this unconventional tale, a latke jumps out of a searing hot frying pan and runs screaming through a snowy village. The latke’s screams grow even louder as it tries to explain itself and its role in Hanukkah during a series of frustrating encounters with popular Christmas symbols, including a candy cane and a Christmas tree, who think the latke is “basically hash browns” that might go well alongside a Christmas ham. “I’m not a part of Christmas!” the latke cries in vain. “I’m something completely different!”
Sadie and her four brothers are very poor and always hungry. On the first night of Hanukkah, Sadie gives all the firewood she has collected to a poor old woman whom she meets in the forest. In return for her kindness, the old woman gives Sadie a magic frying pan that can create latkes out of nothing just by uttering a few magic words. When Sadie leaves her brothers alone with the frying pan one afternoon she cautions them not to touch it, but the boys ignore her warning and things get out of hand very quickly! This charming story is reminiscent of Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona. The illustrations are done in a Russian folk-art style that accurately reflects the setting and time period of the story.
This book is an excellent introduction to the history of Hanukkah for young readers. It tells the story of a group of Jews known as the Maccabees, who courageously fought for religious freedom, and the great miracle that is now commemorated for eight nights every year. The book also explains the significance of many of today’s Hanukkah customs, such as frying latkes and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) in oil, lighting candles, and playing dreidel.
Young Isobel is invited to spend Hanukkah with her Aunt Luisa, who recently moved to the United States from Mexico. Luisa isn’t sure what to expect, but once there she learns that there are many similarities between Aunt Luisa’s Januca traditions and Isobel’s – and a few interesting differences. This delightful multicultural story focuses on the celebration of the new moon that occurs during Hanukkah, a popular custom among the Latin-Jewish community.
After being rescued from an animal shelter on the first night of Hanukkah, Latke the dog joins his new family just in time to celebrate the holiday. Each night Latke accidentally spoils one of the family’s Hanukkah traditions, but each night they forgive him. The narration focuses on Latke’s gratitude at being taken in, and his desire to learn the rules of the house and not lose his family’s affection. This is a cute story that highlights the ins and outs of bringing home a new pet – as well as the importance of patience and forgiveness.
This book is a collection of short, festive poems about Hanukkah. The poems tell the story of one family’s Hanukkah celebration as they spend eight nights lighting the menorah, cooking latkes, and receiving visitors. At the end of the book, there are notes about the history of Hanukkah and a glossary of Hanukkah-related terms including dreidels, latkes, and tzedakah.
This cute story features a young girl whose interfaith family celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas. Delightful collage illustrations depict the family as they prepare for the holidays by lighting the menorah and decorating the Christmas tree, cooking turkey, latkes, and jelly donuts, and setting the table for all the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who come to visit. The book also features a recipe for cranberry kugel stuffing, the ultimate blended holiday dish!
When a poor artist named Mischa finds a cold and hungry cat in his barn, he decides to take her in. He names the cat Mazel (the Hebrew word for “luck”) and shares what little food he has with her. Mischa has no money for Hanukkah candles, so he uses his artistic skills to paint a menorah instead. The prevailing messages of perseverance and kindness are apt for a Hanukkah story.
As winter arrives, a family is seen cheerily preparing for Hanukkah. The children make and hang decorations, and everyone gathers to bake cookies, fry latkes, and light the first candle in the menorah. This simple story focuses on the celebratory rituals and family togetherness that Hanukkah brings, rather than its history or religious significance. The cheerful pictures and rhythmic, rhyming text make this book a perfect read-aloud for preschool-aged children.
As a young boy and his little sister celebrate the festival of lights with their family, the boy notices all the different lights that shine around him, from the menorahs in neighboring windows to the stars sparkling in the sky. This is another great pick for very young children. There are plenty of fun details for kids to spot on each page.
Told from a child’s perspective, this story follows one family as they celebrate all eight nights of Hanukkah. They polish the menorah, say prayers, and fry up latkes. On the third night, the children gather toys and clothes to donate to children in need. On the fourth night, they go to a Hanukkah party at temple and on the fifth night, they host a dinner for family and friends. This charming book captures the heart of this wondrous holiday.
It’s the first Hanukkah since Mama died, and Selma and her little sister Dora strive to keep all her traditions in place. When Papa comes home with the ingredients to make latkes, Selma worries that they won’t be able to make them without Mama. When Papa’s latkes turn out lumpy and thick – not light and crisp like Mama’s – Selma can’t be brave any longer and breaks down. This poignant story is peppered with lighthearted moments keep the book from becoming overwhelmingly sad.
On the first night of Hanukkah, as a family sits down to dinner, Grandma recounts the Hanukkah that she and her sister spent in a concentration camp during the holocaust. Per the young narrator, hearing this story is a yearly Hanukkah tradition, but the family still listens with rapt attention as Grandma carefully carves a raw potato into a candle, recreating the improvised Hanukkah light she made in Buchenwald many years ago. The lifelike, sepia-toned paintings add depth to this moving story.