Review: Eight Bright Nights
Eight Bright Nights
by Hindy Spitz, illustrated by Jessica Liu
Chanukah -- that's the spelling Spitz adopts -- is a minor festival on the calendar. Spitz takes us through it in charming rhyme, never overestimating the holiday's importance (boosted for many of us by its calendar placement), and never overestimating core Orthodox practices -- religious practices and principles -- associated with it. To that end, the miracle of the extended oil burning is properly attributed to Hashem, and one of Liu's art depiction makes it clear that the menorah that was rekindled in Temple after the successful rebellion was seven-branched, not eight. (As with so many kids' books about this holiday, the less kid-appropriate aspects of the Maccabean rebellion are omitted).
The Chanukah of Eight Bright Nights is no gift-fest, or competition with Christmas. It's a girl at the piano playing and singing (maybe Maoz Tzur?) while a grandparent looks on, an apparently multiracial Orthodox extended family gathering, Dad cooking latkes, and kids getting a few dollars as a present with the presence of a tzedakah box and a textual admonition that first comes charity. The men and boys sport tzizzit and kipot, and the mom guides a child in the lighting. Liu even finds a way to reflect the halachic order of candle-lighting, when there's more than one candle to be kindled.
Spitz takes us on an Orthodox -- I'm guessing Ashkenazic, from the art -- frum journey through the eight nights of Chanukah. Some of us might love it from the start, but I'm guessing most will by the end.
It's accurate. It's authentic. It's engaging. It's going to be read again and again. This is a Sydney Taylor Book Award contender.
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