Review: The Hanukkah Hunt

The Hanukkah Hunt (Ruby Celebrates! series)

by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov

Albert Whitman & Company, 2022

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Sandy Wasserman

Two cousins discuss the upcoming Hanukkah holiday, but Ruby learns that her cousin Avital is sad. Nothing can cheer Avital because her mother has to travel for work and will be missing the holiday. But that's what cousins are for, and the entire family gets involved in cheering Avital. Ruby arranges a treasure hunt, and each day of Hanukkah, she comes up with a rhyming clue; Avital guesses and we see her smile. By the eighth day, Ruby has run out of ideas, but in a final twist, Mom comes home early, a gift that surprises and delights the whole family. 

Hanukkah customs are woven throughout the story, which features features a diverse extended family: most members are white, but biracial Cousin Avital's Dad is Black, and Cousin Ethan has two moms. Backmatter explains the history of Hanukkah and the rules of the dreidel game. A sweet twist on Hanukkah. 

Illustration Editor Dena Bach adds: The colorful illustrations contain many details for the child reader to find that make the house feel like a Jewish home, especially all the books! A few notes: In the illustration for the seventh night, the Hanukkah candles are set up as is traditional from the right side to the left, and we see Uncle Will lighting them from right to left. However, the tradition is to light the candles from left to right, the newest candle first, to illuminate the miracle that grew with each successive night. It is also traditional for the letters of the dreidel to read "Nes Gadol Haya Sham" right to left, so the "nun" (which here resembles a "bet") would come before the "gimel" not after.

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Reviewer Sandy Wasserman is a retired teacher of Gifted and Talented students, and taught for 35 years in both public schools and at a Solomon Schechter Day School. She's a wife, mother of two adult daughters, and grandmother to two fantastic 'first readers' of her manuscripts. Her published book, The Sun's Special Blessing [2009], was her first serendipitous and fun experience in the publishing world. She loves to read and swim, though not at the same time.