Picture books, usually around 32 pages, bring home the joy of Chanukah for children and adults. Although few new Chanukah books are out this year, Kar-Ben Publishing, which can be found at Judaica Corner, 2185 Briarcliff Road, Toco Hills, has several: “Potatoes at Turtle Rock” by Susan Schnur and Anna Schnur-Fishman, illustrated by Alex Steele Morgan; “Hanukkah Delight” by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Amy Husband; and “A Hanukkah With Mazel” by Joel Edward Stein, illustrated by Elisa Vavouri.
“A Hanukkah With Mazel” has an interesting story line and memorable pictures. It’s about Misha, a poor artist who lives alone outside Grodno. One day, close to the Festival of Lights, he finds a cat nestled by his cow, Klara, and names her Mazel.
Misha, who has lots of unsold paintings and little to eat, shares everything with Mazel, including milk from Klara and latkes fried with his last two potatoes. He shows Mazel a menorah that belonged to his grandfather and tells him: “My grandfather made this wonderful menorah. … I have no money for candles, so I don’t know how we will light them, but Hanukkah is a time for hope.”
When a peddler comes to the door and claims that Mazel is his cat, Misha winds up with more mazel than he imagined.
Last year Kar-Ben published its 15th book in the Sammy Spider series: “Sammy Spider’s First Taste of Hanukkah,” a cookbook by Sylvia A. Rouss and Genene Levy Turndorf, illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn. The recipes appear under Maccabee Munch, Maccabee Miracle Meals and Maccabee Tasty Treats. They include recipes for Melt in Your Mouth Menorahs, Sweet Potato Gelt and Chocolate “Fun-due.”
At the back of this fun paperback is a section on the blessings when lighting the menorah and suggestions for craft projects.
“Emanuel and the Hanukkah Rescue” by Heidi Smith Hyde, illustrated by Jamel Akib, takes place in the 18th century in a whaling town in Massachusetts where Jewish merchants sell oilskins, boots and canvas bags to sea captains.
It tells the story of a 9-year-old boy who slips away on a ship to be freer than his father and other Jews in the town who are afraid to display their Jewishness. The ship is lost in a storm until the crew sees a line of bright lights in the distance.
Besides Kar-Ben books, older Chanukah titles at the store include the following:
• “Honeyky Hanukah” by Woody Guthrie, illustrated by Dave Horowitz (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2014), which includes a CD of the catchy song written by Guthrie. It’s about a boy and his dog who gather family and friends for a Chanukah celebration at Bubbe’s.
• “Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale” by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Mathew Trueman (Disney Hyperion Books, 2014), tells the story of Simon, whose mother sends him to America with food, a menorah, candles and matches. With tears in her eyes, she says, “Wherever you are Simon, don’t forget to celebrate Hanukkah and its miracles. Who knows? You may need a miracle on your long journey.” When his ship strikes an iceberg, he does. It’s an adventure story of kindness, humor and miracles.
• “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel” by Caryn Yacowitz, illustrated by David Slonim (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2014), is the tale of a beloved grandmother who swallows a dreidel because she thinks it is a bagel and then, in search of a remedy, swallows other surprising items. It’s more than hilarious. At the end of the book, the illustrator shows how each of his pictures relates to a famous piece of art, such as “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh, “Dance” by Henri Matisse and “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci. Slonim writes, “I wanted the art parodies to help the book transcend Chanukah, speaking of the universal human experience of family gatherings and celebrations.”