This post was originally published in December 2014, then inadvertently deleted (oops!). It was re-posted in January 2015, in all its original, pre-holiday splendour. Enjoy!
As we approach the end of another year, almost everyone seems to have a "best of" book list: Goodreads, The Globe and Mail, The New York Times, Quill and Quire, and many more have published their picks for 2014. Well, we couldn't help but jump on the bandwagon, and in the spirit of the season, we decided to provide lists of our holiday standouts, old and new. In keeping with what we celebrate in our respective homes, Carol took Christmas, and Rachelle took Chanukah.
Chanukah Lights Everywhere by Michael J. Rosen: This is the one I used to read to my kids' classes at school. A lovely little story that shares the traditions of the holiday over the lighting of the menorah on each of the eight nights, it also shows that "Chanukah is ... about the joy of different religions sharing a street."
The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming by Lemony Snicket: A family favourite! In the wonderfully ironic style of Lemony Snicket, this hilarious read-aloud book is subtitled "A Christmas Story." A latke, running for its life, encounters all the trappings of Christmas and has to explain, over and over, that no, Chanukah is not a Jewish Christmas.
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel: A Caldecott Honor Book, with beautiful illustrations and loads of meaning. Hershel of Ostropol, the famous trickster (based on an actual person), arrives at a tiny village on the first night of Chanukah, where he offers to take on, and outwit, wicked goblins who won't allow anyone to celebrate the holiday.
A Hanukkah Treasury edited by Eric Kimmel: You might not need any other book for the holiday. This comprehensive collection includes Chanukah songs, historical information, short stories, poetry, crafts, recipes, and more. There's something for everyone in here.
Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking: Because Chanukah is about the latkes, after all! This cookbook is filled with authentic but contemporary versions of traditional Ashkenazi foods.
Second Helpings, Please! by the Montreal B'nai B'rith Women of Canada: First published in 1968, this cookbook was given to me by my mother, and I'll no doubt gift it to my own children some day. I use this one for all my holiday cooking, as well as throughout the year.
And, finally, if escape is what you need during the Festival of Lights, here's a sampling of Chanukah-themed novels by some bestselling romance writers: A Candle for Nick and Season of Light (Lorna Michaels), Sweet Light (Judith Arnold), and A Candle for a Marine (Heather Long).
A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens: Scrooge, Marley, and Bob Cratchit wrapped up in a snowflake-speckled linen jacket – classic story, classic package. Light the fire and bring on the mulled wine.
A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg: An early present to lure me into the festive spirit. The endorsement beside the cardinal on the cover claims it's "Gentle and poignant ... Use a hankie as a bookmark." I like reading this one after watching It's a Wonderful Life.
A Merry Christmas & Other Christmas Stories by Louisa May Alcott: These strong female characters in nineteenth-century America are the Katnisses of their day for teenage girls.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss: Every kid, any age, needs to have this read to them at least twice during the holiday season (in your best Boris Karloff voice, of course).
Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble: A moving, nostalgic children's picture book, glowing with Christmas spirit – back when apples were something kids ate.
The Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrations by Jim LaMarche: Published in 1954, this classic tale of a tree that longed to be part of the forest and a boy that helps it is timeless and will be one your kids will return to long after they've outgrown their other picture books.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Pop-Up Book by Lisa Ann Marsoli: Reminds us that there's nothing wrong with being a misfit.
Feast: Foods to Celebrate Life by Nigella Lawson: Because it's more fun cooking a classic British holiday feast with Nigella's help.
The Darkest Minds Trilogy by Alexandra Bracken: There's nothing like a fast-paced, well-crafted YA dystopian novel to help counter festive gaiety and family overdose!
Wishing you a happy, peaceful, and book-filled holiday season!