Review: Chanukah Lights

Chanukah Lights by Michael J. Rosen (author) and Robert Sabuda (artist). Candlewick Press. 2011.Personal copy. 2012 Winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards, Younger Readers. Tomorrow Michael J. Rosen will be here as part of the 2012 Blog Tour for the Sydney Taylor Book Awards. Information on the Book Awards and the Blog Tour may be found at The People of the Books blog (the Association of Jewish Libraries blog); more information on the award is at the Association of Jewish Libraries, at the Sydney Taylor Book Awards site.

It’s About: Chanukah! Yes, typically I’d review a book about a holiday closer to the holiday. Read it now, save it for later. But, in this case, Chanukah Lights is the 2012 Winner of the Sydney Taylor Book and it’s the blog tour, so depending on how you want to look at it, it’s either a little late or very early. Another way to look at it: that its a disservice to books that are about a holiday to view them as only to be read or enjoyed during that holiday.

The Good: It’s a pop up book! By Robert Sabuda! In tomorrow’s post, I’ll include the video from Candlewick that shows the lovely, intricate work.

This book is just pop ups; it’s also the text.

Chanukah Lights is not the typical holiday book. Usually, such a book is a historical account of the holiday, or a religious account, or a family celebrating the holiday. That’s pretty typical of any holiday book for children. Rosen’s approach is to show how Chanukah has been celebrated throughout time, starting with the first Chanukah and the single lamp that burned for eight days and including immigrant ships, shtetls, and kibbutzim as places where Chanukah has been celebrated.

My favorite is the tenement; Rosen does not name it as New York City, so the reader can see it as any city, just as he does not name any individual ship or town or country so it can be the place and time the reader imagines. For me, thought, it is New York City because the scene and the words reminded me of Sydney Taylor’s All Of A Kind Family (fans of that series will enjoy the materials in The All of a Kind Family Companion by the Association of Jewish Libraries, 2004, a PDF).

Tonight, the sixth

night of Chanukah,

our seven candles

call out like vendors’ chants,

like parents’ voices,

echoing among the tenements

where faith burns bright

amid a new generation.”

The pop ups are stark white, against a colored background with Rosen’s text in white. For this particular page, there is the tenement, the stoop,a  peddler’s cart, barrels, and clothesline with clothes. The menorah is not shown; rather(as with each page except the last) there is a part of the building that has a black background with gold flames. The last page — well, I’m going to leave that for you to discover!

Come back tomorrow, to find out about Rosen’s approach to the text and the process of creating this work of art.


2 thoughts on “Review: Chanukah Lights

  1. This was one of my Hanukkah presents this year — so excited that it won the Sydney Taylor award! It’s gorgeous and I loved the way the nights advanced through time.


  2. Genevieve, so much fun finding the lights! And I loved the final page. Also loved how, in the one in Russia/Eastern Europe, the home and lights were so small —


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