Review: The Eight Knights of Hanukkah

The Eight Knights of Hanukkah by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Galia Bernstein

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Laurie Adler

My calendar tells me that it’s time to start thinking about Hanukkah. The Eight Knights of Hanukkah, by established author Leslie Kimmelman and illustrator Galia Bernstein, is an entertaining story and a perfect holiday refresher for children from kindergarten through third grade.

The story begins in the Renaissance-style kingdom of Lady Sadie. It’s the last night of Hanukkah, and the entire village is preparing for a gala celebration. But alas! A dastardly dragon named Dreadful is roaming the countryside and foiling the party preparations. Oh no! Fair maiden Lady Saidy calls upon the Eight Knights of Hanukkah to “fix things with some deeds of awesome kindness and stupendous bravery” and save the day. Along the way the diverse group of knights replace a scorched dreidel, peel potatoes for latkes, and do a variety of mitzvot before vanquishing, and helping out, what turns out to be a not-very-dreadful dragon.

Kimmelman’s book weaves factual information about Hannukah into the storyline, and its backpages include historical background on the holiday. Bernstein’s detailed and humorous illustrations add a complexity to this simple story and make it appealing to children up to age ten. She uses a soft palate and includes fabulous details such as a different coat of arms for each knight and an apron that says “kiseth the cook”. Illuminated letters and a medieval style village map on the endpapers strengthened the tone of the book and kept my eyes on the page, looking for more inside jokes.

This was a fun book to read. It portrays Hanukkah and mitzvot in a positive light (so to speak) and includes accurate factual information. The Eight Knights of Hanukkah would be a strong addition to a child's holiday bookshelf, and meets the criteria of the Sydney Taylor Book Award. 

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Reviewer Laurie Adler has over fifteen years of library and classroom experience in providing library services readers' advisory to children of all ages. She is currently the Head Librarian at Ramaz Elementary School in New York City.