Review: The Mexican Dreidel

The Mexican Dreidel

by Linda Elovitz Marshall and Ilan Stavans, illustrated by Maria Mola

Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group), 2023

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Suzanne Grossman

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Celebrate Janucá (Hanukkah) in Mexico with Danielito as he visits his grandmother for the holiday. When he adds his dreidel to the neighborhood game of spinning tops, friendships grow, bridging the cultural divide between Danielito and the children who are celebrating Christmas. His dreidel rallies all the tops and leads them on a wild race allowing the reader to see daily life in the village. With Spanish words and phrases sprinkled naturally throughout and needing no translation, young readers will feel as if they are walking in the town. After Danielito invites his new friends to his grandmother's home to celebrate with menorah lighting, latkes, and donuts, plans are made to play again the next day. It's refreshing to see the children being naturally curious and excited to share in the Hanukkah festivities.

Judeo-Mexican culture and traditions are integrated naturally into the story. We learn about buñuelos (fried dough with honey) and dreidel-shaped piñatas. Danielito calls his grandmother Bobe, a derivative of the Yiddish bubbe. The extensive backmatter includes the story of Hanukkah and the history of the Jews of Mexico. This book is a lovely addition to any Hanukkah collection as well as a great book for everyone for the winter holiday season. 

Illustration Editor Dena Bach adds: The readers get the feel of walking in the town through the illustrations, in the bright palette of colors and traditional holiday decorations associated with Mexico.

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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!