Editorial Review

AJL Newsletter

Cover: Emanuel and the Hanukkah Rescue

“Emanuel, inspired by the whalers who frequent his father’s shop in New Bedford Massachusetts, dreams of a life at sea. According to his father, ‘the life of a whaler is lonely and dangerous’ and he encourages Emanuel to become a merchant when he grows up. Emanuel views his father, an immigrant from Portugal who practices Judaism in secret, as being timid and fearful. Although they live in America, they light the Shabbat candles with the curtains closed, and every year his father refuses to put a whale oil menorah in the window in celebration of Hanukkah. This year is no exception. When his father refuses again, Emanuel runs away and leaves his father a note saying that he needs to experience freedom for himself; he hopes that someday his father will be free, too. Emanuel hides on a ship heading out to sea the next day, but soon discovers life as a stowaway to be quite different than he imagined. A storm is raging and the ship attempts to return to New Bedford, but it loses its bearings. Fortunately, Emanuel’s father and the rest of the Jewish community decide to place their menorahs in their windows, thus enabling the captain to steer his ship to shore. Emanuel’s note causes his father to have a change of heart, and to show he is no longer fearful of persecution because of his religion. He puts his menorah in the window and encourages his fellow Jews to do the same.

An original setting and bold illustrations make this a unique Hanukkah story that will appeal to young children. In muted dark colors, the dramatic illustrations complement the story. Teachers and librarians will find it to be a terrific read-aloud. Although the ending is predictable, there is enough dramatic tension for most of the intended audience to overlook this flaw. Author Heidi Smyth Hyde (Mendel’s Accordion and Feivel’s Flying Horses) proves to have a knack for creating memorable historical fiction; however, a more elaborate author’s note with additional historical facts about the Jews who settled in New Bedford and their role in the whaling industry would have been helpful for readers thirsty for more information. Recommended for all libraries that serve young Jewish readers.” AJL Newsletter

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