Lighting Up the Night with Great Hanukkah Reads

by Jennifer Starrett, Founder & Managing Editor Jew Phx

Holiday music fills the air and stores are stacked with holiday treats and decorations gently reminding us that ‘tis the season’ for cheer and joy. And nothing makes me happier than getting to read holiday books with my little ones all curled up together in PJs each night before bed.

Hanukkah books have come a long way in the past few years and luckily there are some great options out there to fill your bookshelves. So take a look at some of our family’s favorites and hopefully they can help light up your nights as well!

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins – by Eric Kimmel

It may not be new, but this is one of the books that I have fond memories of reading as a kid, and I love being able to watch my 4-year-old’s face light up when we open this book. Hershel is a tired traveler who arrives in a small village on the first night of Hanukkah hoping to find warmth and comfort in the lights and latkes that should fill Hanukkah tables. However, he finds that frightening goblins have taken over the synagogue and no one can celebrate the festival of lights. Hershel stands up to the goblins to save Hanukkah and bring light back to the small town. The colorful images and Hershel’s harrowing tale have made this classic story a family favorite.

The Great Latke Cook Off – by Lauren Ranalli

This new addition to our family’s book collection has quickly become a favorite. The story is about a friendly, family competition about who can make the best latkes, a potato pancake that is one of the traditional holiday foods eaten during Hanukkah. Will Mom’s special ingredients win the blue ribbon? Will Dad’s grilling technique win over the judges? Or will Grandma win with her classic recipe that she has been making for years? Find out on the eighth night of Hanukkah in this book that is a fun read for the whole family.

Mrs. Greenberg’s Messy Hanukkah – by Linda Glaser

As most moms can probably relate, cooking with your kids can be a bit challenging. In this book, Rachel visits with her neighbor Mrs. Greenberg, convinces her to make latkes and, predictably, it turns into quite the mess. But despite the spilled ingredients and kitchen chaos, Mrs. Greenberg patiently helps Rachel create the holiday staple to share with Rachel’s family for Hanukkah. Having visitors to spend the holiday with helps Mrs. Greenberg overlook her messy kitchen and enjoy the warmth and comfort of spending Hanukkah with friends. And while I am not quite ready to break out the flour and eggs with my little ones, this story definitely warms my heart and reminds us to reach out to people living alone to share some holiday joy.

I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel – by Caryn Yacowitz

We received this book last year from PJ Library, an organization that sends free books to Jewish families each month, and it was read almost every single night for a month. The sing-songy lyrics (think I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly) tells the story of an old lady who accidently swallows a dreidel while eating a bagel. She decides to eat her way through more Hanukkah foods and symbols in order to help “wash it all down,” but will it be fatal? Find out in this fun and easy read full of colorful pictures that are based off of classic works of art like the Mona Lisaand American Gothicdone by the talented David Slonim. This book is sure to become a family favorite for you, too.

Grover’s Eight Nights of Light – by Jodie Shepard

If you have a household full of Sesame Street fans, you definitely want to check out this book. In the book, Grover spends each of the eight nights welcoming in friends and teaching them about Hanukkah. The familiar characters make it fun for kids while Grover explains the different symbols and meanings behind the holiday traditions. Cookie Monster trades in his cookies for some delicious latkes, Oscar cracks a smile while playing dreidel and Prairie Dawn joins in the fun by singing Hanukkah songs with Grover and his family. And I especially love that they brought up the tradition of giving tzedakah or charity to those in need during Hanukkah since it is an important yet often overlooked holiday tradition.

Jennifer Starrett is an Arizona native who currently lives in Phoenix with her husband and two small children. She is the founder and editor of where you can find more holiday and Jewish life content.

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