Nathan Blows Out the Hanukkah Candles

  • Interest Level: Kindergarten - Grade 3
  • Reading Level: Grade 2

Jacob loves his autistic brother, Nathan, but when Hanukkah comes, Jacob worries that Nathan might embarrass him in front of his new friend. What if Nathan blows out the Hanukkah candles?!

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Interest Level Kindergarten - Grade 3
Reading Level Grade 2
Genre Picture Books
Copyright 2011
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Kar-Ben Publishing ®
Language English
Number of Pages 32
Publication Date 2014-01-01
Reading Counts! Level 2.5
Text Type Fiction
BISACS JUV017110, JUV033020
Dewey [E]
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 9.75 x 9.75
Lexile 570
Guided Reading Level M
ATOS Reading Level 2.6
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 147330
Accelerated Reader® Points 0.5
Features Original artwork

Author: Nicole Katzman

Author: Tami Lehman-Wilzig

Tami Lehman-Wilzig is an award-winning author of 14 picture books, including Keeping The Promise and Soosie, The Horse That Saved Shabbat. Born in America, she lives in Kfar Saba, Israel, with her husband, where she shares her love of stories with her grandchildren.

Illustrator: Jeremy Tugeau

Jeremy Tugeau graduated from Syracuse university with a degree in Illustration. He has illustrated many children's books including Always an Olivia and Nathan Blows Out the Hanukkah Candles. He lives in Ohio with his wife and children.


The Horn Book Guide

“Textured illustrations reflect the tale’s holiday-themed warmth.” —The Horn Book Guide

AJL Newsletter

“Jacob’s older brother, Nathan, celebrates the lighting of the menorah in his own unique way, as he does everything else, by blowing out the candles as soon as they are lit. Nathan exhibits behavior that we associate with autism, but Jacob just finds it annoying. He is thrilled when a new boy moves in next door that he can play with, until his new friend makes fun of Nathan’s behavior and calls him weird. His new friend, Steven, is just not nice when faced with Nathan’s behavior. Relationships between the boys are strained, until the parents, patient with this special child and described as being extremely sensitive, plan a solution that works well and is satisfying to everyone’s needs, both acknowledging Nathan’s uniqueness and celebrating the holiday together in a special way. There is a realistic description of Jacob working through his conflicting emotions about his brother while attempting to fit his new friend into his life. There is also a lot of love in this book, written by an author who has written many children’s books of Jewish interest. Lovely watercolor illustrations add to the story. The description of life with an autistic child in the family makes the book’s message universal and not limited to Jewish collections, but it is certainly worthwhile for any Judaica library. Based on a real child, a real ‘Nathan,’ this tale can provide a wonderful way to introduce autism and indeed any kind of special children to young children and their families. It will allow both parents and teachers to trigger discussion of special children, as well.” —Association of Jewish Libraries

Chicago Jewish Star

“Based on a true story, Nathan Blows Out the Hanukkah Candles by Tami Lehman-Wilzig with Nicole Katzman, illustrated by Jeremy Tugeau is a truly beautiful way of introducing young children ages 5 to 9 to a family with a special needs child.

The story is told by Jacob, whose older brother Nathan is autistic—’Nathan’s mind is wired differently,’ says Jacob, with both the understanding and exasperation of a younger brother.

It’s Hanukkah, and each night the family lights the candles in their menorah, and each night, Nathan blows them out.

How his family, together with their new neighbors, turn that into an unusual eighth night of Hanukkah, where respect, acceptance and acknowledgement replace any embarrassment, criticism or anger, will move an adult reading to a young child.

This gentle story is instructive without being heavy-handed, told with a natural style that rings true. It is an excellent introduction to a child with any type of special needs, whether as a sibling or a member of another family.”—Chicago Jewish Star

The Jewish Week (New York)

Nathan Blows Out the Hanukkah Candles by Tami Lehman-Wilzig with Nicole Katzman, illustrated by Jeremy Tugeau (Kar-Ben, ages 5-9) is a tender story about how a family embraces its autistic son and his sibling at Chanukah. Katzman, who is the mother of the real Nathan, is an advocate for children with special needs.”—The Jewish Week

Jewish Book World

“Jacob’s brother, Nathan, is autistic. Sometimes his repetition of phrases drives Jacob crazy, but Jacob’s mother explains that Nathan’s brain is just wired differently. A new boy moves in next door, and Jacob is happy to have a friend to play basketball with him. Jacob’s mother invites his new friend, Steven, for the first night of Hanukkah, but Jacob is mortified when Nathan blows out the Hanukkah candles. Every day, when Steven sees Jacob, Steven teases Jacob by pretending to blow out candles. On the last night of Hanukkah, Jacob’s mother invites Steven and his family to celebrate Hanukkah Nathan’s way. After lighting the menorah in the window, everyone is given a jelly doughnut with a candle in it and they all blow out their candles.

The story is based on a real ‘Nathan,’ a high-functioning autistic child. The book is designed to introduce young children and families to autism and other developmental disorders. It helps reinforce the Jewish teaching of acceptance of every person as having been created in God’s image. The illustrations are colorful and portray the characters’ feelings in a sensitive manner.”—Jewish Book World

Children's Literature Comprehensive Database (CLCD)

“Jacob loves Hanukkah, but is frustrated with the way it’s celebrated at his house. His brother Nathan, a boy on the autism spectrum, obsesses about the holiday and ruins the night by blowing out the candles as if they were on a birthday cake. When a new friend, Steven, moves into the neighborhood, Jacob is happy to have someone to play with but Steven is not tolerant of Nathan’s differences. When Steven and Jacob try to spin dreidls, Nathan fixates on the whirling motion and Steven proclaims Nathan ‘weird,’ and Jacob must deal with the conflicts and embarrassment felt by many siblings of kids with special needs. This is an important book on many levels. Not only does it address how family’s deal with a child’s differences in the home, but it validates Jacob’s exasperation of making allowances for Nathan. Jacob is not chastised or told that his emotions are wrong, but his parents do expect him to be understanding which is hard for any youngster. When Jacob prays for a Hanukkah miracle that Nathan could be like other kids, we learn how deeply sensitive he is to the situation. Jacob tries to explain Nathan’s ‘faulty wiring’ to Steven, but Steven isn’t an automatic convert. Only Jacob’s construction of an edible menorah, ‘Nathan-style,’ convinces Steven that different is sometimes okay. This Hanukkah book has heart and an important message, both for families that share the experience of raising a child with autism and those who wish they could make their children kinder to children with disabilities.”—Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database

Jewish Journal

“The authors use the story to reinforce two important messages of Judaism: “acceptance of every person as a reflection of God’s image, and the importance of both compassion and inclusion into the community.” —Jewish Journal

Interfaith Family

Nathan Blows Out the Hanukkah Candles (ages 5-9) is, refreshingly, more about life than about Hanukkah. There is mention of various aspects of the holiday, but it is really about the relationship between the narrator, Jacob, and his autistic brother, Nathan. Jacob worries that Nathan will embarrass him in front of a new friend, and Nathan indeed does so by blowing out the candles in the menorah, something not part of the Hanukkah ritual. Blowing out the candles is then made into a new tradition. My favorite part is that the story is based on a real Nathan, the child of one of the authors, who did indeed blow the Hanukkah candles out. The creation of new traditions should be particularly appropriate for interfaith families, and the theme of accepting everyone is always welcome.” —Interfaith Family

Feathered Quill

Lessons come in many guises and this charming book gently and lovingly introduces readers and their parents to autism and the family issues it can raise. —Feathered Quill

School Library Journal

“Shining a light on an experience shared by many contemporary families, this book is a worthy addition for all collections.” —School Library Journal

Kirkus Reviews

“The traditional family Hanukkah celebration is here adjusted to include an autistic boy’s interpretation.

Jacob’s brother, Nathan, can be quite vexing, especially when he repeats himself constantly. Jacob’s mother has explained that Nathan’s ‘mind is wired differently’ and that he ‘just looks at things in his own way.’ On the first two nights of Hanukkah, Jacob is excited to welcome new neighbors Steven and parents to their candle-lighting ceremony. He quickly regrets it when, to his acute embarrassment, Nathan blows out the candles despite being told they are not like birthday ones. Playing dreidel also proves to be less than enjoyable when Nathan fixates on the spinning and ignores the rest of the game. Yet when confronted by Steven—’your brother is weird’—Jacob counters with the defiant response that Nathan’s autistic (not, as Steven mishears, ‘artistic’) behavior helps his family see the world just a bit differently. Softly outlined illustrations offer snapshot views of family gatherings while also capturing emotional expressions of surprise, chagrin and enjoyment, as reflected in the arc of the story line. A creative final scene encompasses both the traditional menorah lighting as well as a birthdaylike candle celebration atop a tray of jelly doughnuts.

This inclusive holiday story offers a realistic perspective on one family’s ability to embrace an autistic individual with respect and compassion.” —Kirkus Reviews