Review: The Littlest Candle: A Hanukkah Story

The Littlest Candle: A Hanukkah Story by Rabbis Kerry and Jesse Olitzky, illustrated by Jen Kostman

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Heidi Rabinowitz

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A group of animate candles living in a kitchen drawer are excited about Hanukkah's approach. They enter into a lively debate about who should be lit on the first night of the holiday; the various Hanukkah candles, and oddly, the Shabbat candles, and even the Havdalah candle argue for their own suitability for this role. Only Little Flicker, the smallest candle, hangs back, instead supporting others and providing useful information. At last the rest of the candles realize that modest Little Flicker is so helpful that he should be the shamash, the helper candle. "He smiled brightly because he knew he was there to help. And that was the most important way to bring more light to Hanukkah."

The logic of anthropomorphic candles who apparently survive repeated lightings is a bit shaky, and the text is a bit wordy, but overall this is a story with a good heart. Little Flicker is a likeable role model (for other candles and for readers too). The colorful cartoon-style illustrations are basic but cheerful and kid-friendly, and the final spread shows a diverse human Hanukkah party that includes Jews of color and a woman in a kippah. The back matter supplies history and candle-lighting prayers.

This story provides a friendly depiction of a Hanukkah celebration, and conveys a fair bit of holiday information at the same time. A pleasant offering.

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Reviewer Heidi Rabinowitz is one of the co-admins of The Sydney Taylor Shmooze, along with Susan Kusel and Chava Pinchuck. She hosts The Book of Life Podcast: A Show About Jewish Kidlit (Mostly) at Heidi is Past President of the Association of Jewish Libraries, and Library Director at Congregation B'nai Israel of Boca Raton, Florida.