Saturday, November 24, 2007

review: Chanukah Lights Everywhere

Chanukah Lights Everywhere by Michael J. Rosen. Illustrated by Melissa Iwai. 2001; Voyager, 2006 (0-15-205675-0) $6.00 pb

On each of the eight nights of Chanukah, a little boy counts lights for the number of candles his family lights. On the first night, "the skinny moon beams like a proud candle flame against the dark sky." On the sixth night, he counts six other menorahs in windows during a walk. On the seventh night, he visits a friend who celebrates Christmas and counts seven lights burning in his windows. And on the eighth night, he finds "all seven stars in the Big Dipper, plus the famous North Star above us, as though God, too, were lighting his own menorah in the sky. Even when Chanukah is over, he sees lights that remind him of their menorah and "I think about Chanukah and about being Jewish in such a wide world of so many other lights."

A sincere, earnest book with sincere, earnest illustrations, Chanukah Lights Everywhere explores themes also seen in Rosen's previous books like Elijah's Angel: respect and appreciation amongst people of different religions. This time it comes across as more messagey than heartwarming, however. There are some playful moments, with lots of cats popping up--one peers out between the narrator's legs in a busy family scene--and the glow of bright lights amid sparkling blue skies in the many night illustrations is warm and satisfying.

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