Review: Mendel's Hanukkah Mess Up

Mendel's Hanukkah Mess Up

by Chana and Larry Stiefel, illustrated by Daphna Awadish

Kalaniot Books (imprint of Endless Mountains Publishing), 2022

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Suzanne Grossman
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Mendel has “messed up” so many Hanukkahs with hysterical thoughtless mistakes that he is shocked when his rabbi gives him the most important task of all. This year he will drive the Mitzvah Mobile through the town to share the miracle of Hanukkah. All goes well until he drives under a low overpass, “crumpling the car like used gift wrap”. A new holiday miracle occurs: in the wreckage, the menorah’s candles are still lit! All ends well when the local news covers the event, allowing Mendel to broadcast the message, “we each have a spark to light up the world.” Digital artwork adds to the fun, creating opportunities for discussion while keeping young readers excited about turning the pages. Backmatter including a brief history of the holiday, dreidel playing instructions, glossary, lyrics for a holiday song, plus a yummy latke recipe, making this book a great choice to add to the fun of the Hanukkah celebration.

This book qualifies as a contender for Sydney Taylor Book Award recognition, with its engaging writing, humorously engaging illustrations, and smooth integration of Jewish content within an age appropriate and entertaining story. 

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Reviewer Suzanne Grossman is happily retired after 30 years as a children’s library media specialist. She had the opportunity to share books, tell stories, and encourage the joy of reading with thousands of children. The moment when a child enters a story, experiences life as a character does and walks through the setting the author has created is magical. She is honored to have the opportunity to be part of the Sydney Taylor Shmooze, working to bring the best of the newest Jewish children’s literature into the lives of young readers. Having the gift of time, she now enjoys writing picture books and sharing them with children. Happy reading everyone!