Thankfully, paper and hardcover books with Jewish content for young readers remain unthreatened by digital versions. Children love to turn actual pages, and this season there are many to be joyfully turned and an impressive variety of content to engage the interest and imagination of toddlers as well as young adults.
Dr. Seuss may have had a grinch but now young Jewish readers have The Kvetch Who Stole Hanukkah by Bill Berlin and Susan Isakoff Berlin (illustrated by Peter J. Welling; Pelican Books, 32 pp. $16.99). Intent on stealing all the menoras of Oyville, happily the Kvetch is no match for Vicki, Max and Monica (rhymes conveniently with Hanukka), who convince him that “he’s got it all wrong, the Hanukkah spirit is joyous and strong.” To which we say, “Amen.”
I have to admit I was skeptical of this title at first, as it seemed a Jewish knock off of Dr. Seuss, but in the end I was completely won over by the wisdom of the story, and the charm of the rhymes and illustrations. I read the book to my eight-year-old son, who is a very harsh critic, and he turned two thumbs up.
It’s probably not apparent to children or even adults on a first reading, that the book touches, in its light way, on problems of vulnerability that are deeply imbedded in the psyche. Even if you’re not Jewish, it’s possible to identify with the Kvetch, a man who cannot allow himself enjoyment for fear of being hurt when that enjoyment is withdrawn.
The authors are to be congratulated in offering a story that is simple and pleasing for children, yet profound and moving for adults. This book deserves to be read and handed down.
“Perhaps you’re afraid to see things so bright for fear you’ll lose them as day becomes night.” This is the important message presented in a most delightful way to young readers of THE KVETCH WHO STOLE HANUKKAH. The book quickly brought me from adult to child, giggling at the novel concept of a miserable yet pathetic kvetch as the ultimate hero?! There I was, in the town of Oyville, one of those kids all excited about the menorah and latkes, when the gloomy KVETCH – who wants to rob others of holiday joy he can’t give himself – suddenly stops the fun.
When I returned to my adult view I noted this one-of-a-kind holiday book’s ability to send kids beyond the gift part of Hanukkah to its crucial social message: We often won’t allow ourselves pleasure because we’re afraid it won’t last – and if we can’t have it, we may resent those who can. As a psychoanalyst and analytic therapist for nearly 35 years, I’ve treated many children and their parents, and I recommend THE KVETCH WHO STOLE HANUKKAH as a mainstay of children’s holiday book selections. Its universal ideas about social skills apply to varied religions (as does Dr. Seuss’s book about Christmas), while its hilarious illustrations bring the giggles. By the way, just make sure you and the kids have plenty of latkes and applesauce to munch on while you learn and laugh.
Laura Arens Fuerstein, Ph.D.
Author, MY MOTHER MY MIRROR
The children in Oyville are very, very excited. You see, the holiday of Hanukkah is drawing near. The girls and boys enjoy all the presents, food and festivities, but most of all, they love hearing the story of Judah Maccabee, “his bravery and toil. They imagined the Temple, its lights needing oil.” Unfortunately, not everybody in Oyville is excited. You see, the town is also home to one very, very grouchy grump of an old man, “…the kvetch who lived high on the hill.”
While the town is a flutter with preparations for Hanukkah, the kvetch goes around grumbling and looking miserable. He thinks Hanukkah is just about presents and wants it stopped. Will he be able to stop Hanukkah?
He sneaked into Oyville on Hanukkah’s first night,
Helped through the dark by the menorahs’ bright light.
“Aha,” said the kvetch, “it’s time for my scheme.
No more menorahs! Not another bad dream!”
The Kvetch Who Stole Hanukkah is written in the mold of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and like the original, is quite funny and entertaining. With a wonderful rhyming tale and silly and bright artwork, the book draws readers in on the first page. Children will learn about the importance of Hanukkah, what it means, why it is celebrated, and have a lot of fun at the same time. We cheer for the kids who want to teach the kvetch the true meaning of Hanukkah and hope that the old man will see the error of his ways. And yes, there is a happy ending!
Quill says: One grouchy kvetch, a group of enthusiastic children, quirky artwork and a terrific rhyming story make this book a winner.
As amazing as it may seem, this brilliant 2 year old toddler was heard mumbling “I LOVE this book! I cannot wait to get the potty training thing down, so I can move on to letters and soon be able to read “The Kvetch Who Stole Hanukkah” to my little brother!! But until then, I can tell you this: it’s a GREAT read. If you have to hear one book about Hanukkah (and you have to,) it MUST be “The Kvetch Who Stole Hanukkah!” You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and so much joy will fill your heart that you may wet your diaper, but it’s worth it!!! And don’t get me started on the amazing pictures!!! I LOVE THIS BOOK! Run, don’t walk , to your nearest bookseller and make your favorite children happy!!”
The story begins in the fantasy land of Oyville, as children are preparing for Hanukkah – the annual festival of lights.
While the true meaning of Hanukkah is the apparent theme of this recently released book, it also teaches children important life lessons about hope and fear and joy in a fun and delightful way.
The writing is whimsical and creative with clever rhymes. The illustrations are vivid and amusing and light up each and every page.
I believe adults will enjoy reading this sweet book to their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. I can hardly wait to give The Kvetch Who Stole Hanukkah to my grand nieces and nephews and watch their expressions as we read together.