Letter on the Wind

Illustrated by Neil Waldman
Boyds Mills Press
PRC Book Printing
Ages 5–9, 32 pages
ISBN 978-0-692-26945-9


Once in a far-off village there nearly was a year without Chanukah….

In a time of drought, the withering olive trees produced no olives for oil. Without oil there would be no lights for the menorahs. Hayim, the poorest man in the village, said to himself, “We cannot have a year without Chanukah. I will ask the Almighty for help.” Despite mockery from the villagers, Hayim asks the local scribe to write a letter to the Almighty. Hayim takes his letter to the highest hill and sends it off on the strongest wind. His prayers are answered, and the villagers can celebrate Chanukah. But many of them are convinced Hayim is a thief.


Sydney Taylor Honor Award for Younger Readers 2008 presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries

Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books 2008

Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) Choices 2008


More than a holiday folktale, this one brings out the significance of graceful benevolence and humble appreciation.
– Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Lamstein (Annie’s Shabbat) polishes up timeless motifs about the mysterious ways of God in this dexterous retelling of a folktale from the Middle East… Waldman gracefully evokes deserts, weathered Middle Eastern villages hugging barren mountainsides, and trees bending under the weight of thick curving clouds… settings that heighten the humanity and organic spirituality of the tale.
– Publishers Weekly

The book will be a fine choice for a holiday read-aloud for young children; it will also be welcomed by older readers, who may recognize some of the other Jewish themes Lamstein skillfully weaves into the story.
– Booklist

…while children of any faith will enjoy the tale, there’s also a sophisticated message here about the nature of community that adults will pick up.
– Read the Spirit (online blog)

…Lamstein’s story about faith, a winner.
– Miami Herald

Lamstein’s lyrical retelling of a Jewish folktale is matched by Neil Waldman’s evocative artwork.
– Detroit News


Hear Sarah Marwil Lamstein and illustrator Neil Waldman’s interview about Letter on the Wind on “The Book of Life: A Podcast about Jewish People and the Books We Read.” The interview begins at 10:35 minutes into the “Hooray for Hanukkah!” episode.

Click here for a downloadable classroom guide for Letter on the Wind. – Created by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer

Books for Jewish Children and Teens: A JPS Guide, Linda R. Silver, Jewish Publication Society, New York, 2010.

The Association of Jewish Libraries annually presents the Sydney Taylor Book Awards in children’s literature.

New York City’s Jewish Museum has a huge collection of menorahs, some of which are presented in their publication (with Yale University Press)Luminous Art by Susan L. Braunstein, Curator of Archaeology and Judaica at the museum.

Where You Can Purchase

Sarah’s Bookstore – paperback
Barnes and Noble