Editorial Review

J Weekly

Cover: Emanuel and the Hanukkah Rescue

“Right from the opening pages, young readers will know they’re in for something out of the ordinary. Set in the 18th century whaling port of New Bedford, Mass., the fictionalized historical tale by Heidi Smith Hyde tells the story of a spirited 9-year-old Jewish boy named Emanuel Aguilar, whose father is a merchant selling sailing supplies and other provisions to the city’s whalers.

‘Papa, when will I be old enough to go to sea?’ Emanuel asks his father, who cautions his son against the dangers of whaling.

Emanuel yearns to place the family menorah in the window during Chanukah but his father is fearful, recalling the tragedy of the Inquisition in his home country of Portugal, where Jews were not free to practice their faith.

‘This isn’t Portugal, Papa. This is America!’ Emanuel protests, reminding his father that Chanukah celebrates religious freedom.

On the last day of Chanukah, Emanuel stows away aboard a whaling ship, leaving a note for his papa explaining his hope to be free. But a sudden and vicious storm transforms the fun adventure, as Emanuel learns firsthand the dangers of the sea. By story’s end, the reunited father and son find hope and courage in the light of Chanukah and its power to inspire freedom.

Artist Jamel Akib’s richly colored pastel paintings cast a luminous glow across the landscape. His highly detailed, realistic illustrations put readers into the story, from the interiors of the merchant shop and the family home to the dramatic scenes at sea.

Hyde was inspired to create the story after reading an article about Jewish involvement in New Bedford’s whaling industry. Jews were an integral part of the industry in New England coastal areas, she learned, serving as merchants, candle exporters and ship owners. Some Jews in the region practiced their faith in secret.

Hyde says she was struck by the parallels with Chanukah, with its themes of the miracle of the oil and religious freedom. In ‘Emanuel,’ she wanted to explore what it means to hide one’s identity. ‘Mostly, I want kids to realize that it’s important to be themselves, not to be afraid of who they are,’ she said.”—J Weekly

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Emanuel and the Hanukkah Rescue
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