Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Review: When Mindy Saved Hanukkah

For more Hanukkah book recommendations (or not, as the case may be) see our bibliography.)

When Mindy Saved Hanukkah by Eric A. Kimmel. Illustrated by Barbara McClintock. Scholastic, 1998 (0-439-7690-6) $5.99 pb

Tired of Hanukkah stories featuring old-fashioned Jewish families? For once, I wasn't. This particular family lives behind the walls of the Eldridge Street Synagogue, where they use thimbles as vases and play with dreidels half their size. But they have a problem: they need a Hanukkah candle (to melt into lots of tiny candles) and the synagogue has acquired "a fierce Antiochus of a cat!" who almost ate Papa! So brave little Mindy, who can "climb better and run faster than anyone!" sets out to make sure the family has candles for Hanukkah.

Using a paper clip as a grappling hook and a leftover palm branch from Sukkot, Mindy climbs to the shelf where her father had seen a lost candle. Then suddenly the cat appears! Thankfully, Zayde has followed, dressed like a Macabee of old, and he "drives" this new Antiochus from the temple with some pickled herring, while Mindy quickly rolls the candle home. Just in time.

Hanukkah themes and bits of Jewish culture are mixed seamlessly into this entertaining story. (There are a few jokes too: the Kleins share Hanukkah with several other families, including the Littles, the Katans and the Pequenos.) The ink and watercolor illustrations range from majestic scenes of the temple to cozy domesticity behind the walls; the kid in me most loved the postage stamp artwork, bottle cap serving dishes, and pocket watch kitchen clock, though some of it is more decorative than logical. (I read a claim online that McClintock's illustrations were actually used as models to restore the historic Eldridge Street Synagogue but unfortunately can't find any verification. It's one of those stories that you wish were true, though.)

Overall, this one of the best Hanukkah books for kids I've seen, especially for those who love tiny worlds. * (5-10)

© 2009 Wendy E. Betts

FTC disclaimer: Reviewed from a copy that was given to my son. This blog is completely independent, but I receive a small percentage if you order books from Powell's via this site.

Other blog reviews: Becca Reads

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