Review: My Hanukkah Book of Opposites

My Hanukkah Book of Opposites

by Tammar Stein, illustrated by Juliana Perdomo

PJ Publishing

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Heidi Rabinowitz

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The cover of this board book, with its juxtaposition of warm and cool colors in a symmetrical design, immediately presents a feeling of balance. It also offers a conversation starter: adults can ask children to look for opposites such as tall/short and lit/unlit candles, as well as birds facing to the right or left, priming them for the theme before even opening the book.

Within, six pairs of opposites manage to create a narrative, tying together the arrival of guests through the celebration of Hanukkah up until bedtime. The text makes sense chronologically: the people are cold until they go indoors and then they are warm; a platter of latkes is full until they are eaten up and then the platter is empty. Stylish, rounded illustrations depict a diverse gathering of family and friends with a variety of skin tones. Men and boys wear kippot. In a welcome change from many picture books featuring diverse groups, brown children are not "extras" and even get solo scenes on the pages for "Light" and "Asleep." The atmosphere is warm and loving, and offers scenes of joyful togetherness as well as peaceful solitude.

Hanukkah symbols include sufganiyot, dreidels and gelt, latkes, the menorah, and music. In a nicely non-consumerist twist, gifts are not depicted as part of the celebration. A note for  adults on the back of the book gives a brief explanation of the history and customs of Hanukkah.

My only quibble is a minor technical detail. The pair Tall/Short is followed by Dark/Light, and both illustrations include hanukiyot. On the earlier spread, the candles have burned short; on the next spread the candles are slightly taller, as if time had been rolled backwards. However, most readers will not notice this difference, and it does not detract from the overall story.

This book is a PJ Library original, and is available not only to the program's subscribers but also to the general public through Amazon. It will be a welcome addition to bookshelves in homes and preschools. 

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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.