Emanuel and the Hanukkah Rescue

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

Angry that his father is afraid to kindle the Hanukkah lights, Emanuel stows away on a whaling ship. When a storm overtakes the boat, it is his father’s change of heart and the family menorah that light the way home.

Format Your Price Add
Interest Level Kindergarten - Grade 3
Reading Level Grade 3
Genre Picture Books, Social Studies
Copyright 2012
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Kar-Ben Publishing ®
Language English
Number of Pages 32
Publication Date 2014-01-01
Text Type Fiction
BISACS JUV017110, JUV033020, JUV016120
Dewey [E]
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 10.375 x 8.875
ATOS Reading Level 4.4
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 155243
Accelerated Reader® Points 0.5
Features Original artwork, Reviewed, and Starred Reviews


The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

“This daring adventure set in Colonial America is a welcome addition to the collection of Jewish historical fiction for young readers. Set in New Bedford, Massachusetts, during the 18th century, it tells the story of the religious freedom that Portuguese-Jewish immigrant families found in the New World.

Emanuel’s father is a storekeeper who supplies the whalers who seem to be brave and strong, and whom Emanuel would like to emulate. Emanuel loves listening to Captain Henshaw’s stories of daring and adventure at sea. His father, however, is more cautious, fearful of the open seas and whaling as well as of practicing his Judaism openly. This frustrates Emanuel, leading him to stow away on a whaling ship, hoping to show his father that he is in fact brave and strong.

When a storm overtakes the boat, Emanuel comes to appreciate his father’s fears, thinking, ‘so this is what fear feels like.’ And his father is able to gain perspective about the freedom to practice religion afforded him in his new country. He realizes that “it is not good to be ruled by fear” and boldly encourages all the Jewish families in the town to light the menorah on the eighth day of Hanukkah to guide the distressed ship home.

Akib’s chalk pastel illustrations reflect the tension of the story. Using dark colors to offset the welcome lights at the end, he succeeds in creating an excellent compliment to this tale of courage and freedom.” —The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

The New York Times Book Review

“Light performs multiple roles in this fascinating glimpse at a little-known slice of Jewish American history, beautifully rendered in chalk pastels.” —The New York Times Book Review

Jewish Book World

“Emanuel and his family are part of a group of Jews that have been forced to flee Portugal and have come to live in the whaling community of eighteenth-century New Bedford, Massachusetts. While his father runs a whaling supply shop on the wharf, nine-year-old Emanuel prefers to listen to the exciting seafaring yarns of the sailors. He wishes his own ti mid dad were more like the brave whale-chasing Captain Henshaw. Even in America, the land of the free, his father is too fearful to practice Judaism openly. When his father refuses, as usual, to light the Hanukkah candles one winter, Emanuel decides to stow away on Captain Henshaw’s ship. The ship runs into a bad storm and, even aft er the storm ends, there is still danger. The ship is adrift at sea with no shoreline lights to show the way back. Then comes an eighth-night-of-Hanukkah miracle! Emanuel’s father has convinced all the Jews in town to light menorahs in their windows and the blazing lights guide the sailors safely home. It’s a good historical adventure story although the context of exactly what happened to chase the Jews from Portugal and make them so fearful is not explained and will not be understood by many young readers. In addition, though the text refers more than once to whale-oil menorahs, the impressionistic illustrations seem to show ordinary wax candles in the menorahs. Recommended for ages 5-9.”—Jewish Book World

Jewish Journal

“Local children will love this story, set in New Bedford, Mass., once known as the whaling capital of the world. Nine-year old Emanuel Aguilar knows a lot about whaling because his father, Aaron, owns a store where many of the town’s whalers purchase supplies. Emanuel talks with the whalers about their seafaring adventures, and dreams of becoming one of them. The Aguilars, who are Jewish, escaped religious persecution in Portugal. When they moved to New Bedford, they made a conscious decision to hide their ancestry. Emanuel dreams of putting a whale oil menorah in the shop window to celebrate Chanukah, but his father always refuses.

The frustrated boy writes his father a note saying he has gone to sea to learn what it’s like to really be free, brave and unafraid. He stows away on a ship, unbeknownst to anyone, but a big storm hits and he comes out of hiding. The lighthouse is struck by lightning, leaving the ship with no guidance to reach shore.

But suddenly, out of the darkness, some lights appear on the horizon. When they reach the shore, Emanuel realizes that the lights are the glow from the flames of the menorah from the last night of Chanukah. As he steps off the ship, Emanuel is greeted by is father, who said after reading his letter, he was so ashamed that he told all his Jewish neighbors that they must all light their menorahs and not be ruled by fear anymore. This exciting action adventure tale will capture children’s imaginations, and also teach them a valuable life lesson. Perfect for ages 5-9.” —Jewish Journal

J Weekly

“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

AJL Newsletter

“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


“With softly lit pastel artwork and a clear, exciting narrative, this picture book blends the history of Jewish persecution with a young boy’s role in a gripping rescue story. In eighteenth-century New Bedford, Massachusetts, nine-year-old Emanuel’s father owns a whaling supply shop, and Akib’s images show the young boy on the bustling wharf, entranced by the ships that set out in search of whales, whose oil is used for lamps and candles. Emanuel’s family fled persecution in Portugal, and even now, Emanuel’s father warns his son to keep their religion a secret. During one Hanukkah, when Emanuel’s family and their Jewish neighbors do not light the menorah candles, Emanuel decides to stow away on a ship, after leaving a note for his father. During a bad storm, the local lighthouse is damaged, but the Jewish community, inspired by Emanuel’s note, does light its Hanukkah candles after all, and the glow brings the ship home. Parents and teachers will find many discussion opportunities here, while kids will enjoy the action of the boy who leads the way.” —Booklist

Publishers Weekly

“In this beautifully illustrated and evocative tale set in the 18th century, Emanuel is a Jewish boy living in the whaling town of New Bedford, Mass. Emanuel’s father, a merchant near the sea who lived as a secret Jew in Portugal until he immigrated to America, still suffers from fear of religious persecution. Emanuel pleads with him to celebrate Hanukkah by placing the menorah lights on the window sill, but he resists. It is only when Emanuel takes matters into his own hands that his father realizes the true meaning of freedom and miracles. Akib’s chalk pastels set a somber yet hopeful mood perfectly, while the captivating storytelling will keep young readers glued.”—Publishers Weekly

Kirkus Reviews

“A boy’s insistence on exercising freedom of religion helps an 18th-century Portuguese-Jewish immigrant community openly practice and observe its faith.

Emanuel works with his merchant father offering supplies to the whalers of New Bedford, Mass., and, with dreams of joining a ship when he is older, loves to listen to Captain Henshaw’s adventurous seafaring stories. But his cautious father, scarred by the Spanish Inquisition, tells him that whaling is a dangerous occupation and that Emanuel’s place will be at the store. Emanuel grows weary of his father’s fears. He particularly cannot understand why they do not openly celebrate Shabbat or the eight nights of Hanukkah with their menorah’s candles beaming in the window. On the eighth day of Hanukkah, the determined 9-year-old stows away on Captain Henshaw’s ship, leaving a note expressing his search for freedom. Disaster strikes immediately in the form of a fierce storm that causes the ship to turn back. As suspense builds, the darkness is lit with the numerous flickering menorah candles in the windows of the Jewish homes, guiding the struggling ship and its crew back to shore. Opaque dark-blue– and brown-hued paintings provide a shadowy atmosphere; the chiseled faces of hard-working men are illuminated by candlelight. Emanuel’s New World innocence, untouched by persecution, is reflected in his boyish, smooth face.

Although didactic and idealized, this broad interpretation of freedom from a Jewish perspective is one not often seen.” —Kirkus Reviews

Author: Heidi Smith Hyde

Heidi Smith Hyde is the director of education of Temple Sinai in Brookline, Massachusetts. Her books include Feivel's Flying Horses, a National Jewish Book Award Finalist, and Mendel's Accordion, winner of the Sugarman Award.

Illustrator: Jamel Akib

Jamel Akib was born in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England, to mixed English and Malaysian parentage. He is an award-winning artist. He lives in West Sussex, England.