CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 14. . . .December 4, 2015
Hanukkah Lullaby, a board book for babies and toddlers, is intended to teach them about the symbols and traditions of a Jewish holiday celebrated in November and December, the precise dates each year depending on the coordination of the Julian calendar and the Hebrew lunar calendar.
Hannukah (the word can be spelled in a variety of ways – Chanukah, Hanuka, etc.), is an eight-day holiday that marks the victory of the Jews over the Syrian king Antiochus about 2200 years ago. Antiochus had invaded Jerusalem, taken over the temple and declared the Jews had to worship Greek gods instead of practicing monotheism. The Jews, led by Judah Maccabee and his family of brave fighters, defeated Antiochus and regained the temple. They found only one day’s supply of oil to light the temple, but, in a supposed miracle, the oil lasted eight days until it could be replenished. In modern observances, one candle is added each day to a Hannukiah, a special candelabra, to mark the days the oil burned. Children receive ‘gelt’ – money or small gifts, a symbolic toy (dreidel) is spun, and potato pancakes (latkes) and jelly doughnuts, both fried in oil, are eaten at family parties.
The text of the 6” x 6”, 18 page book is a poem about a boy and girl and their family observance of Hanukkah. The poem. which has been set to lilting music and sung by a children’s choir, can be accessed through iTunes or a link on Facebook. The pleasant, rhythmic tune sung with or by a parent can make the excitement over the holiday more meaningful for a child.
Tia Mushka’s illustrations echo the dream-like style of Marc Chagall while adding her own modernist, playful abstractions. The rich watercolour paintings show realistic scenes - family parties with music, grandparents and games – but also contain swirling and swooshing brush strokes that suggest action, such as the page that depicts a boy sleeping peacefully. In his dreams, though, he sees himself as a young Judah Maccabee determined to take on Antiochus.
The final two pages, set on a warm yellow-gold background, contain explanations about the history of Hannukah, its symbols and the traditions. Hanukkah Lullaby would be an appropriate gift for a new baby or a toddler. It’s an attractive book with a child-friendly text, a warm way for parents to teach their children and wrap them into the warmth of family and cultural traditions.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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