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Hello, friends! Are you ready for another fun storytime?
Today we’re reading two books that I’ve been reading with my kiddos every year since my oldest was a baby.
As a devout Christian, I think it’s important to teach my children Biblical history — which is tightly rooted in Hebraic tradition. So even though we don’t celebrate Hanukkah or Passover the way we would if we were Jewish, we do celebrate them in our own way.
Around Easter, we usually have a Seder meal and read the Hagadah and talk about the miraculous escape of the children of Israel from Egypt. And during the beginning of December, we always read Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat (A Chanukah Story) by Naomi Howland and The Story of Hanukkah by David Adler.
If you just read the first book, your children will have questions about the cultural references they hear in the book. The second book will answer their questions and leave them with a pretty good understanding of Hanukkah and it’s significance.
Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat (A Chanukah Story) by Naomi Howland
Sadie and her four younger brothers, who live on the outskirts of a tiny village in Russia, are poor, cold and always hungry. While gathering firewood one bitterly cold night, Sadie meets an old woman who needs help.
Without a moment’s hesitation, she gives the woman her wood, and in exchange, the woman gives Sadie a frying pan that can cook up sizzling golden latkes on command!
For days, Sadie and her brothers happily devour all the latkes they want. When Sadie goes out on the 8th night of Chanukah, she warns her brothers not to use the frying pan in her absence.
Naturally, they can’t resist and begin to panic when they can’t make the pan stop. What do you do with mountains and mountains of steaming hot latkes?
Latkes, Latkes Fun to Eat is a fun, engaging story about generosity, greed and gratitude flavored with a bit of mischief and naughtiness. If this is your first time reading it, though, your children will probably have questions about some of the references in the book.
Questions are excellent! That’s when you read The Story of Hanukkah (Hanukkah and Chanukah are both acceptable spelling variants of the same thing) and talk about Jewish history and culture with your children.
Hanukkah is the celebration of an ancient miracle, and retelling and remembering the story of that miracle is an essential part of the holiday, for young and old. The story of the courageous Maccabees is retold in simple yet dramatic text, accompanied by vibrant paintings of the battle, the Temple of Jersualem, and the oil which miraculously burned for eight long nights.
More Fun Hanukkah Stories:
Miracle of the Potato Latkes by Malka Penn
Tante Golda makes the most delicious latkes in all of Russia. She makes them for all of her friends every Chanukah. Ever generous, she doesn’t worry about running out of potatoes all winter because she firmly believes, “God will provide.” Somehow she always manages, as friends drop off a few potatoes now and then. But one year there is a severe drought and Golda discovers she only has one small potato left in her big barrel. What to do?
It’s the first night of Hanukkah! She asks several of her neighbors for extra potatoes, but no one has any. When a hungry beggar comes knocking, she uses her last potato to make latkes for him and he says they are the best anywhere, a miracle. Soon one miracle leads to another and Golda is able to make Hanukkah last throughout the winter for all the people in the village.
Moishe’s Miracle: A Hanukkah Story by Laurie Krauss Melmed
Though he earns a meager living, kind-hearted Moishe is always willing to help his neighbors. One Hanukkah eve, his wife Baila scolds him because they have no money to buy the ingredients for latkes. Seeking a little peace of mind, Moishe retreats to the barn, where he is awakened by one of his cows talking to him. A stranger has left him a gift — an old frying pan which can produce as many latkes as he wishes, but only Moishe must use it.
He surprises Baila on the first night of Hanukkah with latkes so light they float on air! The he next day Baila does not heed Moishe’s warning and tries to use the pan herself. Instead of latkes, she conjures up hairy demons. Baila is so frightened that for the first time she is rendered speechless and is forever transformed.
Moishe’s Miracle is an entertaining, cautionary tool about a kind milkman rewarded for his generosity and his sharp-tongued, shrewish wife, who is punished for her selfishness.
Literature Activity: Learn the history of Hanukkah
I’m no Hebrew scholar. I read the Bible, attend church every Sunday, and I took religion classes at the university I attended, but I’m still working on the basics. So if you want to learn more about the history of Hanukkah, History.com has a short video and further reading. We found them very interesting!
Literature Activity: Festival of Lights Luminaries
I’ve seen these luminaries made from both tin cans and paper sacks. I like the idea of the tin can luminaries, because they are more durable, especially if you want to use them outdoors in the snow.
We had paper sacks, though, and I hadn’t thought ahead to save tin cans, so we didn’t have any. That will have to be a project for another day!
White paper sacks would have been prettier, but we just had brown — so brown it was!
We drew our designs on the paper sacks very lightly, then used straight pins to poke the design along the lines we had drawn. My kiddos had a lot of fun drawing and poking their designs.
We used small, battery-operated tea lights from Walmart. We didn’t want to use candles or anything that would catch the sacks on fire! However, they were pretty dim. I wish we had found something brighter.
I also think the brown sacks let less light through, so I recommend using white ones. We had fun with this activity, though!
Literature Activity: Latke Platter
On one of my many visits to Pinterest, I came across a great idea: decorating plates and/or cups with Sharpie permanent markers, and baking them to make the masterpiece permanent!
I’ve been meaning to let my kids make plates for awhile, and this was the perfect opportunity. I suggested some Star-of-david and other hanukkah-type decorations, since we were making latke platters. As you can see, I was ignored. Oh, well — their creations turned out beautifully anyway.
My kiddos ended up having a ton of fun with this craft! Even my big kids had to jump in and make plates of their own. All of them wished they could have made more, so we’ll have to do this one again. These plates would be a wonderful gift for a family member or neighbor.
- White or light-colored plates
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Sharpies (dark colors work best)
- an oven to bake the items
- Clean the plate with rubbing alcohol and a paper towel.
- Draw your design on the cleaned plate with a pencil. You can draw freehand or make a stencil for your design. We all drew ours freehand.
- Color your design with permanent markers. We found that the dark colors were much more permanent than the light and bright colors.
- Place your plates in the oven and bake them at 350 degrees for 30 minutes to set your artwork. Carefully remove the plates using a hot pad.
- Do not use decorated plates for cooking or eating. They can be used to serve items such as cookies with a napkin on the plate.
Literature Snack: Latkes
We make latkes whenever we have leftover mashed potatoes to be used up. Several of the books above include recipes for latkes, but this is how I make mine, because it’s easy.
Start by heating 1/4 c. coconut oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. While the oil is heating, stir together 3 c. of your leftover mashed potatoes, 3 beaten eggs, 3 Tablespoons flour and 1 tsp. salt. Place large spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the hot oil, pressing down on them to form patties. Fry until crisp on the outside and hot all the way through.
Top them with sour cream and chopped green onions and serve them with applesauce. What a fun way to serve up repurposed mashed potatoes!
Thank you for joining us today as we learned about Hanukkah! I hope you enjoyed our storytime.
Check out my other fun storytime selections, each with educational activities and yummy snacks.
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