Fall 2019

Kugel for Hanukkah?

  • Interest Level: Preschool - Grade 3   ·  
  • Reading Level: Grade 2

As each of Hanukkah’s first seven nights brings an unusual new present to a little girl, the mystery deepens. While the gifts grandma receives add up to a delicious Hanukkah treat, her granddaughter’s gifts don’t seem to make much sense. Until the eighth night they finally do!

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Interest Level Preschool - Grade 3
Reading Level Grade 2
Genre Fiction, Picture Books
Copyright 2019
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Kar-Ben Publishing ®, Lerner Digital ™
Language English
Number of Pages 32
Publication Date 2019-09-01
Text Type Fiction
BISACS JUV017110, JUV033020
Dewey [E]
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 9.75 x 9.75
Lexile 610
Features Author/Illustrator biography, Recipes, and Reviewed


Jewish Journal

“Kugel for Hanukkah?” by Gretchen M. Everin. Illustrated by Rebecca Ashdown. (Kar-Ben Publishing)
A wide-eyed animal-loving young girl celebrates Hanukkah with her family, hoping for the gift of a pet, such as a puppy, kitten, bird or hamster. Instead, on the first night, she receives a hard metal lamp. On the second night, she gets a “strange kind of thermometer.” On the third night, she gets a squirty spray bottle. Things are becoming confusing! To add to the puzzlement, her grandma is receiving odd gifts, as well: chocolate chips, cinnamon sticks, a tiny bottle of vanilla and candied cranberries. As the clues grow, children will have fun trying to guess what the eighth night will bring. For Grandma, it turns out to be the ingredients for a family favorite holiday treat: Cranberry Chocolate Chip Hanukkah Kugel. (Recipe included.) By the last night, the delighted little girl has received all she needs for her new pet — an unexpected iguana!
There is a lot to this simple story for young children. Besides the eight candles, there are the eight different gifts to count, along with eight different kinds of latkes served (potato, carrot, turnip, beet, etc.) The illustrations are charming and reflect a newer trend in Jewish children’s books regarding realistic depictions of grandparents. Here, Grandma is not sporting gray hair or wearing pearls and a dress, but appears to be a slim, hip-looking 60-something with a purple-striped turtleneck and leggings. All the male characters are wearing kippot, which also serves as a teachable moment in many homes. A fun and appealing new Hanukkah story to share with animal-loving children.
Purchase on Amazon here.

The Detroit Jewish News

A young girl is mystified by the unusual gifts she receives for Chanukah, while her grandma receives the ingredients to make a kugel. Each night, the mystery deepens for the young girl with gifts of a bowl, spray bottle and thermometer. On the last night, the doorbell rings with a special delivery — a pet iguana. She names her iguana Kugel. For ages 4-9.

Washington Parent

Follow this spunky first-person narrator as she celebrates the eight nights of Hanukkah with extended family. Each night she notices what Grandma receives – “a shiny baking dish,” “a teeny tiny bottle of vanilla” – and hopes her present might prove to be a pet, maybe a turtle with a shiny shell or a teeny tiny hamster. Instead, her gifts are a metal lamp, a ceramic bowl and an odd plant. To help assuage the little girl’s disappointment, Grandma asks for her help in creating a special dish from all the culinary gifts. No sooner is the yummy kugel pulled from the oven than the doorbell rings – and there is a pet no one could have imagined! This playful Hanukkah tale warrants praise for two things in particular: a mystery pet adopted from the animal shelter and a modern Grandma who defies ageist stereotypes with her chic haircut and sparkly scarf.

Washington Post On Parenting blog

A little girl celebrates the eight nights of Hanukkah with her family, and each night brings a surprise — although not the one she’s hoping for. The tone is set early on: “I lit the shamash and the first candle. Grandma said the blessing. Then we feasted on crispy potato latkes with sweet applesauce.” Her grandmother gets a gift of candied cranberries; the little girl, wanting a pet, instead gets a lamp. Each night the family lights another candle, eats more latkes (made with various ingredients and toppings), and the grandmother and girl each open a gift. At the end, the grandmother combines all her gifts to make the girl’s favorite treat — kugel (noodle casserole, traditionally eaten during Passover). Later, we see that each of the child’s gifts relates to the surprise she receives on the last night: a new pet. Bright, cheerful illustrations pair with the sweet story.

The Horn Book Magazine

“Pastel-toned illustrations create a sense of happy family celebration.”—The Horn Book Magazine

Publishers Weekly

“With cheery, identically composed cartoon spreads leading up to the reveal . . . Everin and Ashdown build the suspense for their holiday mystery.”—Publishers Weekly

School Library Journal

“[A] sweet addition for public and Jewish libraries looking for a fun read to bulk up Hanukkah collections.”—School Library Journal


“It’s Hanukkah time, and the family gathers every night to light candles, open presents, and enjoy a different
flavor of latkes. Grandma receives some interesting gifts (dried cranberries, chocolate chips, cinnamon
sticks, and vanilla), but the unnamed protagonist’s gifts are very strange indeed (a metal lamp, a
thermometer, a spray bottle, and a ceramic bowl). By the last night, it’s clear that Grandma has received
ingredients to make a cranberry–chocolate chip kugel (recipe appended); but the young girl is confused
and disappointed. However, while she helps Grandma cook, the rest of the family busily assembles her real
gift: an iguana and habitat. Kudos to Everin for finding a unique take on Hanukkah, no small feat given the
proliferation of titles about this celebration. Ashdown’s cheerful, cartoon-style art features googly-eyed
characters usually depicted sitting on the couch. Careful observers will note that the girl’s thought bubbles
reveal what she would really like (a kitten, puppy, turtle, etc.), while Grandpa’s socks reflect these wishes.
Not essential, but certainly fun.”―Booklist

Kirkus Reviews

“Everin’s tale is entertaining and happy and will make a pleasant addition to holiday book shelves. Ashdown’s colorful illustrations feature a googly-eyed family and a menorah depicting each night of the holiday. The historical setting of Hanukkah is assumed. Presents for Hanukkah can be both surprising and perfect.”―Kirkus

Illustrator: Rebecca Ashdown

Rebecca Ashdown is an award-winning and internationally published author and illustrator. She grew up on the south coast of England, where she spent most of her childhood running wild, drawing and writing, or lost in the pages of a book. She lives with her family in Stroud, UK.

Author: Gretchen M. Everin

Gretchen M. Everin wrote her first story when her oldest child was a baby and hasn't stopped since. When not writing, she volunteers in an elementary school library. She lives in Rhode Island with her husband and three children.