Review: Mrs. Maccabee's Miracle

Mrs. Maccabee's Miracle

by Elka Weber, illustrated by Amélie Videlo

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

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Shanna Silva

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Welcome to the Maccabee house. Five brothers are always misplacing their things, and look to their mom to locate the objects. Mom gently reminds them that items remain where they are left. This repeating theme will strike a familiar chord with both parents and children. As the story progresses, the situation in Modi’in worsens for the Jews when the Greek ruler, Antiochus, demands that Jewish life and practice cease. The Maccabee boys, like many other Jews, continue to study Torah and practice Judaism in secret. When the great battle between the Jews and Greeks ensues, Mama Maccabee’s lessons about locating lost items is an integral part of the Hanukkah miracle. It’s wonderful to see a woman of importance play a part in a story that’s usually male centered.

Illustrations by Videlo help make the story relatable to a modern audience. Scenes of home life are familiar, including a family dog that takes part in the battle. Faces are expressive and scenes of the ancient Temple are well depicted. Jewish life and ritual objects are featured throughout.

Back matter fully explains the history of Hanukkah and the Jews in this time period. It’s written for adult readers, and provides many topics for discussion for children and students.

Mrs. Maccabee’s Miracle meets the criteria for The Sydney Taylor Book Award. It has literary merit and positive, authentic Jewish religious and cultural content. The meaning behind the celebration of Hanukkah is brought to life through joyous celebration of a war won, and more importantly, the ability to practice Judaism freely. This is a delightful new take on the Hanukkah story. This book is a most welcome addition and will be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

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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 50 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.