Editorial Review

Association of Jewish Libraries

Cover: The Missing Letters: A Dreidel Story

“Set in the wood carver’s shop as the festival approaches, all the separate pieces of the dreidel are ready to be assembled. They come to life. Letters nun, hey and shin are jealous of gimel, popular with players because of its promised gains. They decide to hide the gimels so they cannot be pasted onto the dreidel form, then rules will have to change; the other three letters will have a happy ending. The concerned dreidel maker explains to his apprentice that all the letters as well as the spinning top are important in Jewish history: they are more than toys. In the days of the Maccabees as in other times, Jews were not allowed to study Torah. They did so in secret. When soldiers came to check on their activities they found the students playing dreidel rather than pouring over the Torah scroll. This bravery made the dreidel a Hanukkah tradition. In vain, dreidel maker and helper tear the shop apart to find the missing gimels as there is no time left to carve them again. That night the three letters pull the gimels from their hiding places. Next morning, when the gimels are back in their tray, the carver cannot figure it out. He finishes the dreidels. The text works if readers immediately suspend disbelief. The illustrations work from start to finish: they are lively, engaging and smart. The double page spreads that reveal the hiding, then the retrieving of the gimels, pinned to a blueprint-like ground, are terrific. The book is directed at knowledgeable readers. The Maccabees are cited, not explained; there is no further holiday background or information. The end page gives dreidel rules.”—Association of Jewish Libraries

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The Missing Letters: A Dreidel Story
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