||Illustrated by Neil Waldman
Boyds Mills Press
Ages 5–9, 32 pages
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
“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. Hayim’s prayers are answered, and the villagers can celebrate Chanukah. But many of them are convinced Hayim is a thief.
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.
…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
Barnes & Noble
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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.