Hanukkah Bear, by Eric A. Kimmel (Holiday House, 32 pages, $20.95), is a tongue-in-cheek tale about a hungry bear and a nearsighted, hard-of-hearing grandmother. Bubba Brayna is 97 but “still made the best potato latkes in the village” and was busy cooking up a batch in anticipation of the rabbi’s visit. So when she heard a thump at the door, she ran to answer it, greeting Old Bear — because that’s who stood out there in the snow — with great enthusiasm. He growled when she tried to remove his fur coat. “Well, that’s all right,” she said agreeably. “It is chilly in here.”
The old lady delights in his company, never growing wise to the fact that this “rabbi” is really a bear, and eventually sends him off with a “happy Hanukkah” and a belly full of latkes — only to find the real rabbi, and numerous friends, at her door minutes later. The book, wonderfully illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, ends with a recipe for potato latkes, and an author’s note explaining Hanukkah.
Hanukkah in Alaska, by Barbara Brown and illustrated by Stacey Schuett (Henry Holt, 32 pages, $18.99), is the story of a family with an unwelcome guest in their yard: a moose who has chosen a comfortable spot where he can dine on their trees. Our young narrator worries he’ll tangle himself in her swing and ruin it. One night — right after the last Hanukkah candle has been lit and the family has gone outside to watch the northern lights (“our very own Hanukkah Festival of Lights,” the girl’s father calls it) — that’s exactly what happens. The moose sticks his head through the swing and gets hopelessly tangled. Our resourceful narrator rushes into the house, comes out “with hands full” and lays down a trail that lures the moose away from the swing, out of the yard and down the driveway. “Latkes,” she says when her parents ask what did the trick. Again, an author’s note provides information about Hanukkah.
Dusk, by Uri Shulevitz (Farrar Straus Giroux, 32 pages, $19.99), isn’t a Hanukkah book per se, but does a wonderful job of celebrating the entire holiday season. The text is brief but rhythmic, and the stylized images glow with vibrant colour as we’re treated to the sights — and lights — that greet a “boy with dog and grandfather with beard” on their walk through what appears to be New York City in days of yore. “As nature’s lights go out,” we’re told, “city’s lights come on.” We follow the trio past luminous store displays and brightly lit homes where families celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. It’s a perfect book with which to enter the holiday season.