Review: Ava's Homemade Hanukkah

Ava's Homemade Hanukkah

by Geraldine Woberg, illustrated by Julia Seal

Albert Whitman & Company, 2022

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Shanna Silva

Ava’s family has a Hanukkah tradition: each person brings their own menorah, which tells a piece of their unique story. This year, Ava is old enough to have a menorah of her own. For inspiration, she looks at the other menorahs and tells the story behind each of them to her adorable pet bunny, Maccabee. Ava learns that menorahs can have a connection to people and places you miss, can commemorate a special event, can serve as a bond to one’s history, or can reflect something one cares about. Ava carefully selects important items from her life to make her own menorah.

This is a sweet book and presents a family tradition that can be emulated. The story doesn’t have conflict or stakes for the main character, but the value of each person’s story is enough to advance the plot. Thoughtful diversity is portrayed in the text and art: Ava's Jewish family is white but her aunt is married to a black woman who converted and whose family has discovered Jewish roots. A warm, happy home is portrayed through the illustrations. The faces are simple yet expressive. The historic components may be too advanced for the youngest readers, but the idea of making a personalized menorah is a tradition that can be enjoyed by all.

Ava’s Homemade Hanukkah has literary merit and positive, authentic Jewish content. Bits of Jewish history are woven in seamlessly, and the stories behind each character are also reflective of different facets of Judaism. This book meets the criteria for the Sydney Taylor Book Award.

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Reviewer Shanna Silva is an award-winning author and Broadway producer. She has written three children’s picture books: A Dog’s Guide to Being Human, Hannah’s Hanukkah Hiccups and Passover Scavenger Hunt. Shanna is also the author of over 45 hi/lo books for emerging readers. Her work has been featured in Kveller, Bella Magazine, Twins Magazine, Multiples Illuminated I and II, and Chicken Soup for the Soul. Shanna lives in New York with her family and a meshuggenah sheepadoodle named Drake.