The story of Hanukkah isn’t the most kid-friendly tale — religious oppression and war being not the cuddliest of themes — which is why at this time of year, some of us need the help of talented children’s authors to help teach our kids about the holiday. If you’re looking for some context and entertaining ways to celebrate the fact that this is so much more than “Jewish Christmas,” a good Hanukkah children’s book or two will help tremendously.
While Hanukkah doesn’t get the help of a massive commercial industry and a jolly old elf, the holiday’s got plenty going for it in the way of pleasing children. Hello, eight days of presents, of course! But also, there are all the other traditions families participate in, knowing their families have been doing this for thousands of years. There’s the magical feeling of lighting the menorah every night, imagining what it would be like to be in a pitch-black temple and knowing that you should have run out of oil days ago. There are those delicious latkes and chocolate gelt, some of it won by playing the dreidel game. And whether you’re from a secular family, a mixed-culture one, or religious, reading to your kids about Hanukkah always helps connect their imaginations with the holiday.
We’ve selected some books that help retell the story of Judah Maccabbee and the rebuilding of the temple. Some books here simply show the celebration side of Hanukkah. Some publishers borrow already-beloved children’s book characters — from Elmo to the Very Hungry Caterpillar — to join in the party. There are also books that weave brand new tales of Jewish people experiencing their own miracles, or making magic of their own. And when you sit down and read one of these Hanukkah books with your children, you’re creating one more holiday tradition to continue together.
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Here are some of the best Hanukkah books for children.