Review: The Ninth Night of Hanukkah

The Ninth Night of Hanukkah by Erica S. Perl, illustrated by Shahar Kober

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Rachel J. Fremmer

The Ninth Night of Hanukkah by Erica Perl celebrates not just Hanukkah, but neighborliness and the importance of traditions both old and new.

A family has just moved into their new home and can’t find the box with their Judaica items. As the nights pass without the box turning up, siblings Max and Rachel ask an array of neighbors from different backgrounds for help, borrowing candles, eating French fries instead of latkes, making do with chocolate chips instead of chocolate gelt, and so on. Each night ends with the child-pleasing refrain, “It was nice… but it didn’t feel quite like Hanukkah.” The final night of Hanukkah passes without the box, but the children decide to invite the neighbors over for a ninth night of Hanukkah, representing the shamash, the helper candle. Perl explicitly makes the connection between the shamash helping the other candles and the neighbors helping Max and Rachel’s family.

Shahar Kober’s illustrations are dynamic and funny and allow pre-readers to follow along easily.

The book concludes with a note from the author and ideas for celebrating your own Shamash Night, including ways to thank the “helpers” in your life.

With its emphasis on the Jewish value of helping others without being preachy and its sweet take on the creation of new traditions, The Ninth Night of Hanukkah is a clear contender for the Sydney Taylor Book Award.

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Reviewer Rachel J Fremmer is a lawyer-turned-elementary-school librarian. She is a native New Yorker and lives there with her husband two daughters, ages 15 and 12, who are rapidly outgrowing her area of book expertise. She loves baking and doing crossword puzzles.