Monday, December 12, 2011

2011 Holiday Guide: Hanukkah Gifts

Hanukkah, the Festival of Light, which begins at sundown Tuesday, Dec.20, 2011 is celebrated in Jewish households for eight nights, and provides plenty of opportunity for candle lighting, dreidel spinning, latke making (making potato pancakes), gift-giving, gelt-getting (gifts of money), music making and story telling.

Last year, we featured some of the best Hanukkah presents, which are classic entertainment items, many geared toward the four to eight year old range, but when shared in a family’s home setting, these  gems were sure to delight all ages.

This year, we've again included the favorites that have stood the test of time and will probably be around for many more years to engage, inspire and entertain, plus we've also included some new additions that we believe are classics in the making.

Please remember, best pricing at the time of this post has been provided for your convenience, but it is always a good idea to cross compare with your favorite online as well as stick-and brick-retailers.

As always, you are the final authority in selecting appropriate items for your child’s entertainment.

First, we start with books. 

A Faraway Island is the 2010 winner of the Mildred L. Batchelder Award for “an outstanding children's book translated from a foreign language and subsequently published in the United States.”

Originally published in Swedish in 1996 as "En o i havet," the book was written by Annika Thor, translated by Linda Schenck, and published by Delacorte Press (an imprint of Random House Children's Books.)

A poignant and riveting novel that takes a different look at the Holocaust, as two Austrian sisters are separated from their family, and evacuated to an island off the coast of Sweden. Each girl placed with a different foster family.

"From School Library Journal Grade 5–8— In this gripping story, Stephie and Nellie, two Austrian Jewish sisters, are evacuated in 1938 from Vienna to a Swedish island and placed in separate foster homes. Twelve-year-old Stephie has promised her parents that she will try to ease her younger sister's way, a burdensome promise to keep. Auntie Alma, Nellie's Swedish mother, is warmer and more welcoming than Auntie Märta, Stephie's more austere foster parent." (Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.)

Reviews for A Faraway Island are available at, and best pricing for this hardbound edition is through Amazon Marketplace at $2.24.

The items that are listed below were published during the early 1990’s but have remained in print because of their delightful ability to transcend generations, and all are available through favorite booksellers as well as most local libraries.

Latkes and Applesauce: A Hanukkah Story by Fran Manushkin and Robin Spowart

A gentle tale about a peasant family, whose potato crop was buried in a blinding early snowstorm and their apple harvest, meager at best – left them with nothing to eat for the Hanukkah holiday. Despite their poverty, they invite a stray cat and dog into their household for shelter and care from the cruel winter storm, and are blessed with a miracle of sorts on the eighth day of Hanukkah. With beautifully illustrated chalk drawings, the book also includes an explanation of the holiday, directions for playing dreidel and a wonderful recipe for latkes.
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks (October 1, 1992)
Best price available is at Amazon Marketplace
ketplace for a new paperback is $1.75

The Chanukah Guest by Eric A. Kimmel and Giora Carmi 

A totally silly story about 97-year old “Bubba” (Grandmother) Brayna, who each year during Hanukkah, makes the best latkes in the village, but this year, because she is very hard of hearing and almost blind, mistakes a hungry bear for her invited guest (the Rabbi), and feeds him all her latkes.
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Holiday House (September 1992)
Best price for "Collectible" paperback in "very good" condition is at Amazon Marketplace for $1.97.

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric A. Kimmel and Trina Schart Hyman

Worse than the “Grinch,” a number of holiday-hating hobgoblins (each a nasty prankster) set out to ruin Hanukkah for an entire village, but “Hershel of Ostropol” outwits them all. Trina Schart’s Caldecott Award-winning illustrations are the perfect match to Kimmel’s cleverly told story.
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 30 pages
Publisher: Holiday House (September 1994)
Best price available for paperback "new" condition is at Amazon Marketplace for $3.44

Now, for top recommended DVDs -

Lights: The Miracle Of Chanukah 

This 24-minute animated short explains the history behind the celebration of Chanukah, which also includes a special section about the Hebrew alphabet. A wonderful introduction of the holiday for children and features the voice over talents of Paul Michael Glaser, Judd Hirsch and Leonard Nimoy.
Presented in color, Dolby sound and full screen DVD format.
Best price at Amazon Marketplace $10.50.

Lambchop's Chanukah and Passover Surprise 

"Lamb Chop," "Charlie Horse," "Hush Puppy" and of course the beloved and late Shari Lewis tell you everything you need to know about the two Jewish holidays of Chanukah and Passover. This charming, G-Rated, 128 minute DVD also features guest appearances by Dom DeLuise, Robert Guillaume and Alan Thicke.
Best price from Amazon Marketplace for $11.79.

Here are the perfect music choices to ring in the holiday and for all year listening -

Chanukah Fever

"Mama Doni,” also known in real life as Doni Zasloff Thomas, an attractive and energetic 21st century, New Jersey-based Jewish mother and preschool-teacher-turned-entertainer, captivates kids and families with her fun-loving renditions of Chanukah songs.

Winners of the Simcha Award at the 2008 International Jewish Music Festival, Amsterdam, Mama Doni Band serves up a wide range of musical styles from reggae to rock with blends of Klezmer and even disco along with a few other genres mixed in.

Clever lyrics abound along with a bit of wacky shtick to celebrate not only the holiday but a beloved heritage.

You can preview all 14 tracks of Chanukah Fever at where the CD format is available for $13.84, or the option for an MP3 album download for $8.99 or .99 cents per track. Amazon Marketplace also has "new" condition CD's starting at $9.77.

You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy the following: A video of "Chanukah Fever" by The Mama Doni Band. Enjoy!

Another hit from Mama Doni - Shabbat Shaboom!

Earlier this year the inimitable Mama Doni brought her special brand of “funky music with a Jewish twist” to a new “Challah-Day” album, perfect for year round listening, Shabbat Shaboom.

The original songs and stories on Shabbat Shaboom transport listeners to a place where the album’s warmly sincere pop-rock title track happily melds with a Gloria Estefan-meets-Fiddler on the Roof conga line tune, "Challah-Day,” where the reggae-influenced “Mazel Tov” meets a disco ditty, “Sabbath Queen.”

Shabbat Shaboom touches on such aspects as lighting candles, being with family (mishpocha), celebrating bat mitzvahs, and even the “workout” that Mama Doni mischievously terms "synagoguersizing." 

Shabbat Shaboom marks the first Mama Doni CD to showcase the entire Mama Doni Band.  

The Mama Doni Band photo by Ron Holtz

Sound samples for all 21 tracks of Shabbat Shaboom are available through, where the entire MP3 album is priced at $8.99 or $0.99 per down-loadable track.

Best pricing for the CD version is through Amazon Marketplace for $2.90.

Celebrate Jewish Lullabies Volume 1

In his fifteenth album release, guitarist/singer Craig Taubman has assembled a beautiful lineup of sweet musical treats for children.

Performed by numerous artists that include Craig Taubman, David Paskin, Yael Meyer and others, this excellent collection of tenderly performed songs with lyrics that paint gentle pictures, is sure to help little ones drift peacefully off to dreamland.

A Fall 2011 Parent’s Choice Award-winning album, Celebrate Jewish Lullabies Volume 1 is available to sound sample and in MP3 download for $0.99 per track or $8.99 for all 14 tracks from, where you will also find the Audio CD available for $13.07.

Now, for something really different...

Bannanagrams Hebrew

One of the most unique and primarily word-of-mouth promoted games, Bananagrams has taken the country by storm, and now it’s gone global with international editions, which now include Hebrew.

As a word formation game, it is slightly similar to Scrabble but it is fast-paced, portable and almost addictive as you can play in groups or solo. The game has simple rules and is very affordable.

Bannanagrams in Hebrew is available only through the following distributor:  and is priced at approximately $26.41 US dollars, which includes all shipping.

The video below shows some teens having a great time with this unique edition of Bannanagrams.

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