Editorial Review

San Diego Jewish World

Cover: A Dreidel in Time: A New Spin on an Old Tale

SAN DIEGO – Ah, the joys of time travel! San Diego author Marcia Berneger, a retired teacher, uses this device to imaginatively retell the story of the first Chanukah in A Dreidel in Time, a chapter book for children between the ages of 8 and 13.

On the assumption that our readership is a lot older than 13-year-olds – a lot, lot older – I’ll share the plot with you. I figure that I won’t be spoiling the story for the eventual readers if I summarize it here so you can consider buying the $8.99 book published by Kar-Ben as a Chanukah gift for a child or grandchild.

Siblings Benjamin and Devorah are anxious to open their Chanukah presents, and have little patience for their visiting grandparents’ suggestion that they play with a family heirloom dreidel. But once they spin it, everything starts spinning and they find they have been transported from 21st century Los Angeles to Modi’in, Judea, in the second century before the common era. Mattisyahu and his son Judah are complaining about the many ways the occupying Syrian-Greeks are interfering with the practice of the Jewish religion.

After the Maccabees have taken to the mountains, Benjamin remembers a story he read in school about how George Washington fooled the British in one military campaign. He had his men pull out of the camp after they created some scarecrow like figures to sit near the campfire. This gave the British the idea that the camp was lightly defended, and when they sent some troops to take it over, Washington’s men came out of hiding and defeated them. Benjamin suggested the same stratagem to Judah Maccabee, only later remembering that Washington had learned of this plan by reading about the Maccabees’ war against the armies of Antiochus.

Whenever Benjamin and Devorah would spin the dreidel, it would land on a different letter, advancing them through the Chanukah story, until they came to the Holy Temple in time for Devorah to find the jar of oil that would burn miraculously for eight days. A final spin of the dreidel brought the brother and sister back to their home. They thought they had been away for a long time, but in fact, according to their parents and grandparents, they hadn’t been gone at all.

Now, however, Benjamin and Devorah were not so impatient to open their Chanukah presents. After seeing how the Judeans lovingly brought gifts to the refurbished temple after its desecration by the Syrian Greeks, the children decided it was much better to give gifts than to receive them. They scrambled to their rooms to find the presents they had put aside for their parents and grandparents.

The 82-page book is illustrated by Beatriz Castro.

Products Reviewed

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A Dreidel in Time: A New Spin on an Old Tale
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