December 21, 2008

Book Review: Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins

Posted by at 10:28 am in Reads | Permalink

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In a closet in the basement of my parent’s house, we have big old empty shoe boxes filled with decorations for every holiday. And every December (or whenever it falls), my mom digs out the Hanukkah box and starts unpacking dreidels of all sizes and shapes, puzzles and stuffed animals, window clings, place mats, and every Hanukkah knickknack imaginable. (We’re lucky my dad wears huge size 13 shoes or we wouldn’t have a shoe box big enough to fit it all!) And out from somewhere in that box comes my absolute favorite Hanukkah book, Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel. This great story is beautifully illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman and earned a Caldecott Honor in 1990.

The story starts with our hero, Hershel of Ostropol, traveling on the first night of Hanukkah. He is excited to reach a village at nightfall, expecting there to be glowing menorahs in every window and latkes (potato pancakes) for all to eat. But when he arrives, the village is dark and cold. Hershel is told that the synagogue at the top of the hill is haunted by goblins who hate Hanukkah, and the goblins come down and ruin it for them every year. Hershel is dismayed. No Hanukkah! How can the villagers live like that? Hershel is going to rid the village of the goblins once and for all.

The only way to break the curse is to celebrate Hanukkah in the haunted synagogue for all eight nights. So Hershel heads up to the haunted synagogue armed with nothing more than his wits. Every night a new goblin shows up to challenge Hershel, and every night Hershel has a new way to chase the goblin off. In my favorite of Hershel’s tricks, he uses a jar of pickles to get rid of the goblin for the night. How do you get rid of a goblin with nothing but a pickle jar? Well, it took some quick thinking on his feet for Hershel, and it’ll take reading the book for you to find out because I’m not giving it away!

— Carly H., STACKS Staffer