Review: Kayla and Kugel's Happy Hanukkah

Kayla and Kugel's Happy Hanukkah written and illustrated by Ann D. Koffsky

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Judith S. Greenblatt

Kayla and Kugel’s Happy Hanukkah is Ann D. Koffsky’s third Kayla and Kugel book, joining Kayla and Kugel, and Kayla and Kugel’s Almost Perfect Passover, Kayla’s puppy Kugel gets into only a small amount of trouble as he helps her get ready for Hanukkah. Together, after first examining the Purim box, they find the box of hanukkiot (a word not used) and dreidels, and Kayla explains the Hanukkah story to Kugel. The illustrations are very appealing, including those parts of the story that are age appropriate. The retelling of the story of Hanukkah is nicely set off by the use of a color palette different from that of Kayla and Kugel’s story. Full color is used for child and dog; the Hanukkah story is shown in burnished gold with details in browns and grey.

Kayla and Kugel’s Happy Hanukkah meets the Sydney Taylor criteria of having positive and authentic Jewish content. As noted above, Kayla and her puppy Kugel are shown getting ready for Hanukkah by retrieving hanukkiyot and dreidels from their storage spot in the attic. Kayla tells Kugel a version of the Hanukkah story that is age appropriate as they get ready. Illustrations nicely show details of lighting the menorah, with the hanukkiyot in the window, and the first candle being on the right of the lighter. In addition, each person has a hanukkiyah. Kayla and Kugel appropriately show great joy in their preparations, and in celebrating Hanukkah by lighting the hanukkiyah, playing dreidel, retelling the story. An endnote makes clear that we also need to appreciate our freedom to celebrate Jewish holidays, as well as enjoying the festivities. It also suggests ideas and think about, and making up a game. Style, vocabulary, format and illustration are very appropriate for the intended grade level. This story is not about diversity in the Jewish community. The family is white and middle class. Children do love the Kayla and Kugel stories, however this is not a necessary purchase for a library Hanukkah collection.

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Reviewer Judith S. Greenblatt says: I hold a Master of Library Service from Rutgers-The State University. My first Judaic Librarian job was as Judaic Librarian as Librarian RI. I joined AJL in 1977, chaired Weine Cataloging Revision Committee, and served as Vice President and President of the School, Synagogue and Center Division of AJL. Publications include: 1985-86 Book lists; for young children, for 3rd to 6th graders, for young adults. Annotated. Women's League for Conservative Judaism, 1986. 100 Plus Books For The Children's Library: A Basic Collection. Revised in cooperation with the Publications Committee of the AJL, AJL, 1989. Weine Classification Scheme for Judaica Libraries. Revised by Judith S. Greenblatt, Chairman. 8th edition. AJL Synagogue, School and Center Division, 1994.