JTA — “Goodnight Bubbala,” a new children’s book that puts a delightful Yiddish spin on “Goodnight Moon,” the beloved bedtime classic by Margaret Wise Brown, is among a handful of new children’s Hanukkah books out this year.
Others include a Sesame Street board book for toddlers, two more picture books, and a couple of chapter books for older readers. Hanukkah starts this year on Sunday evening, December 22.
Growing up, sing-songy Yiddish terms of endearment like “bubbala” (sweetheart) and “mamaleh shayne” (cutie pie) sparked joy for author Sheryl Haft when her grandmother used them. Grittier words like “shmendrick” (fool) and “kvetch” (complain) tickled her funny bone.
With bright and lively illustrations by Jill Weber, the lovingly zany “Goodnight Bubbala” (Penguin Random House; ages 2 to 5), glows with the warmth of family holiday celebrations. The book includes a glossary of Yiddish words and a latke recipe from master Jewish chef Ina Garten, an early fan of the manuscript. Garten appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” on December 19 to discuss both the recipe and the book.
The quiet hush of the original is upstaged by the arrival of a whole raucous bunny family who have come to celebrate Hanukkah. There’s music and dancing, dreidels, bagels, a pot of kneidels — and of course, latkes.
As the festivities wind down, it’s time to say goodnight. A tired zaydie (grandfather) nods off in a chair. When the family heads out under the wintry stars, the child bunny falls asleep as the glow of the night sky shines through the window.
“I just loved the sound of the Yiddish language,” Haft said. “It always made me laugh.”
Haft, the author of “Baby Boo, I Love You,” and the upcoming “Amazing Mazie McGear, Kid Engineer,” wanted to share that sparkle in a book that reached a broad audience of young children.
For Weber, an award-winning illustrator whose many books include “The Story of Hanukkah,” by David A. Adler, the boisterous family scenes in Haft’s manuscript conjured images of long ago childhood visits with her grandparents.
Weber said she is honored to have a part in a book that presents Jewish culture to a broad swath of Americans during a time of divisiveness. “It’s important to take this culture … and be proud and to encourage other immigrants to do the same,” she said.
At book events across the country, Haft, who splits her time between New York and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has been surprised by the warm reception from older generations of Yiddish speakers who are eager to share the book with their grandchildren. One woman bought copies for her senior reading group.
“I am enjoying people sharing their favorite Yiddish words and phrases, as well as the excitement families are having around teaching these words to their children,” Haft said in an email.
She hopes the book succeeds in bringing Yiddish to a diverse audience and inspiring children of all backgrounds to “be a mensch.”
Here are some more new Hanukkah books for children of all ages.
Kugel for Hanukkah?
Gretchen M. Everin; illustrated by Rebecca Ashdown
Kar-Ben (ages 4-9)
Each night, as a young girl celebrates Hanukkah with her family, they light the menorah and exchange small gifts. The young girl dreams of getting a pet, but her grandmother’s gifts turn out to be the ingredients for a sweet kugel. The unusual gifts are a mystery, until the last night, when it all adds up.
Grover’s Hanukkah Party
Joni Kibort Sussman; illustrated by Tom Leigh
Kar-Ben (ages 1-4)
The latest in a series of Shalom Sesame/Sesame Street board books for toddlers is all about the number eight, for the eight nights of Hanukkah.
Barnyard Bubbe’s Hanukkah
Joni Klein-Higger and Barbara Sharf; illustrated by Monica Gutierrez
Kar-Ben (ages 1-4)
What will bubbe do with eight night’s worth of curious presents left for her by the whimsical farm animals? Make latkes, of course!
The Hanukkah Fable of Little Dreidel and Silver Menorah
Sylvia Rouss; illustrated by T.L. Derby
MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing (Ages 3-7)
A sweet tale with a touch of magic about a plain wooden dreidel that longs to stand out like the shiny menorah. A warm and engaging story by Sylvia Rouss, award-winning author of the hugely popular Jewish children’s Sammy Spider series.
A Dreidel in Time: A New Spin on an Old Tale
Marcia Berneger; illustrated by Beatriz Castro
Kar-Ben (ages 8-13)
In this page-turning chapter book, a magical dreidel takes a brother and sister back in time from their home in Los Angeles to ancient Israel, placing them bravely in the center of action in the Hanukkah story.
Hanukkah in a Book
Illustrated by Carolyn Gavin; designed by Katie Benezra
Abrams (All ages)
A delightfully illustrated gift book that retells the story of Hanukkah and includes the rituals and blessings for lighting the menorah in Hebrew and English along with the traditions of celebrating the holiday. A special treat: the removable cover unfolds to display a menorah with a pop-up candle for each night of the holiday.
D is for Dreidel: A Hanukkah Alphabet
Gibbs Smith (ages 2-4)
A brother and sister and their playful puppy celebrate a joyful Hanukkah in this alphabet board book, with each letter related to the holiday or other Jewish themes. Especially fun is “G is for gelt,” with shiny gold and silver wrapped chocolate coins raining down from above.
Bold and Brave
Shainy Peysin; illustrated by Michael McFarland
Hachai Publishing (ages 7-10)
Part historical fiction, part religious adventure story featuring a brother and sister who live in ancient Israel under the rule of King Antiochus, the ruthless ruler of the Hanukkah story. As their beliefs are tested, the religiously observant siblings find courage.