Saturday, November 5, 2022

Celebrate Sukkah & Hanukkah with picture books exploring diverse mosaic of Jewish culture & history

Kalaniot Books is a Jewish children's publisher whose mission is to help young children and their families explore the diverse mosaic of Jewish culture and history with exciting picture books that entertain, educate, and inspire engagement with this storied tradition.

The Very Best Sukkah: A Story from Uganda by Shoshana Nambi (ISBN: 978-1-7350875-8-0; Hardcover $19.99; Ages 5-10) 

What is Sukkah: - Festival of Booths: Sukkot is a Torah-commanded holiday celebrated for seven days, beginning on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei [October]. It is one of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals on which those Israelites who could were commanded to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. (Wikipedia)

My thoughts:  This is an interesting children's book featuring a small community of Ugandans who converted to Judaism in the 1920s. They are celebrating Sukkah. During this holiday period each family builds their own "dwelling" of branches and other miscellaneous materials. The holiday is in celebration of the end of their wandering in the desert. 

I did not realize that there was a competition where the community voted to determine which Sukkah was best, but that is  the emphasis of this picture book.

I'm not particularly fond of the style of illustrations used and the strong, dark coloration it incorporates.  The book and story are interesting and will help children understand Jewish culture and observations. There is interesting back matter with information on the origin  of the Abayudaya (this community of believers in Uganda) and a glossary of terms.

About the book: Who has the most amazing sukkah in the Abayudaya community of Uganda? Only one sukkah can be the best, but everybody wins when neighbors work together.

Sukkot is Shoshi’s favorite Jewish holiday. She and her brothers love to decorate their sukkah, the hut where her family will celebrate. But who will win the Ugandan Abayudaya community’s annual sukkah contest? While only one sukkah can be the best, everybody wins when neighbors work together.

The story introduces readers to the culture and traditions of a little-known Jewish community in Uganda, and features an empowering theme of community involvement that will resonate with kids and adults alike. Back matter includes notes about the Sukkot holiday, the community’s history, a glossary, and a look at the musical traditions of this culture to allow for further exploration.

Author info: SHOSHANA NAMBI grew up in the Abayudaya Jewish community in the eastern part of Uganda. When she finishes her rabbinical training in 2024, she will be the first female rabbi in Uganda. This is her debut book.

Illustrator info: MORAN YOGEV is an Israeli illustrator and graphic designer. She graduated with distinction from the Minshar School of Art in Tel Aviv. She lives in Kibbutz Hagoshrim in northern Israel with her husband, Nis, sons Adam and Omer, and their lovely dog, Menny.

Mendel's Hanukkah Mess Up by Chana Stiefel & illustrated by Daphna Awadish (ISBN: 978-1-7350875-7-3; Hardcover $19.99; Ages 4-9) 

What is Hanukkah? - Hanukkah is a Jewish festival commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. It is also known as the Festival of Lights. (Wikipedia) [Observed 2022, December 18-26]

My thoughts:  This is such a funny and sweet story of mess-ups by a young Jewish boy as things seem to always go wrong when he is involved in celebrating Hanukkah.

Yet, this year the Rabbi asks him to drive the special van around the city informing folks of Hanukkah celebration. Then...... the really big mess-up!

I really enjoyed this story. The back matter has a brief history of Hanukkah, a glossary, and instructions on how to play Dreidel. 

About the book: Mendel can never seem to get anything right. But when he steps up to spread Hanukkah joy, he finds his moment to shine.

Mendel is always messing up. So, no one is more surprised than he, when the rabbi asks him to drive the Mitzvah Mobile through the streets of New York and invite everyone to the Hanukkah bash. What if he messes up again? As Mendel begins to spread the joy of the holiday, he learns that mistakes can happen and sometimes the results can be miraculous.

Humor and joy abound in this delightful Hanukkah story. Mendel's Hanukkah Mess Up by Chana and Larry Stiefel and illustrated by Daphna Awadish is a wonderful portrait of New York City as the quintessential melting pot. Back matter includes notes, a glossary, and a recipe for latkes to allow for further exploration of the holiday.

Author info: CHANA STIEFEL is the author of more than 25 books for children, both fiction and nonfiction. Chana loves visiting schools and libraries and sharing her passion for reading and writing with children. Her husband LARRY STIEFEL is a pediatrician and author of the The Maggid of Bergenfield short story blog, from which this book was created. Chana and Larry have four children and live in New Jersey.

Illustrator info: DAPHNA AWADISH is an Israeli illustrator and filmmaker living in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She graduated from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design and from AKV St. Joost Master Institute of Visual Cultures.

Begins Nov. 5 - Ends Nov. 28
Open to USA addresses only
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes. Prizes are provided and sent directly to the winner by publisher or publicist.


  1. The book Sarah Solo sounds interesting. I did not know the company has a newsletter.

  2. It is important to teach children about other cultures and religion. I would buy books dealing with this subject.

  3. Do you think it appropriate to teach children about the families whose faith is different than theirs? OF COURSE ALL KIDS NEED TO KNOW THIS

    If so, how would you go about accomplishing this in an unbiased way? BOOKS, TALKING ABOUT DIFFERENT FAITHS, GOING TO A CHURCH SERVICE.............. TALKING TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE


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