Monday, June 25, 2012


Ada, Alma Flor and F. Isabel Campoy. Celebra Hanukkah con un cuento de Bubbe. Illus. Mariano Epelbaum. Miami: Santillana USA Publishing Company, Inc., 2007. ISBN 1-59820-122-0. $11.95.

Categories: K-6 Social Studies/Language Arts/Math; Family, Food, Generosity, Multicultural, Myths and Legends, Expository Text, Dialogue, Character, Parts of a Story, Number Sense.
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Renowned children’s book authors Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy take us around the Hanukkah table at Bubbe’s (Yiddish for grandma) house where three siblings learn about generosity as they are each tempted by the golden fried latkes laid out before them. In true culturally Jewish fashion, Bubbe tells a traditional Hanukkah tale of two brothers during the time of Jewish slavery that mirrors the generosity the children are displaying to one another. The first part of the book is written in dialogue as it tells its story.

Originally written in Spanish, this book also has an English translated version available. Older readers could work on translation skills by analyzing the text of both copies. For both versions, Mariano Epelbaum provides bright and inviting illustrations, with many clearly articulated details ripe for student questioning. Translations for Yiddish words are provided at the bottom of each page where they are used in a text size that may require teacher assistance depending on the age.

The second part of the book reads as expository text about the aspects of Hanukkah. It has much more of a textbook quality in that it features photographs in place of Mariano Epelbaum’s illustrations. Readers may want to know that the majority of the photographs are of Ashkenazi Jews, in other words light skinned, as opposed to providing the reader with a more representative picture of multicultural Jewish identity. Even with this critique, however, this seems to be the only children’s book about Hanukkah written in Spanish in current circulation. The section on the dreidel game can also be easily converted into a collaborative math lesson on number sense. In the end of this informational section, a variety of other winter holidays that feature lights are presented. This can be used to encourage multicultural dialogue and further analyzed with the use of a Venn diagram.

This book is perfect for K-6, depending on the intention of instruction. Social Studies topics of family, food, generosity, and multicultural awareness can all be easily addressed. Language arts in either English or Spanish, depending on the copy, can cover myths and legends, expository text, and elements of a story. As mentioned earlier, math lessons on number sense can also be found within these pages. It is also simply an entertaining read for learners of all ages who would like to learn more about the Hanukkah holiday.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Aspen Shirley-Dancoff

This review is part of the Special Section: Books in Spanish, featuring a collaboration with Policy and Language Studies students at San Diego State University. Read more about it here.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this lovely review of our book Celebra Hanukkah con un cuento de Bubbe from the series Cuentos para celebrar. This series combines stories about holidays well-known to Latinos, like Cinco de Mayo and Navidad, with others not frequently written about in Spanish like Martin Luther King´s day, St. Patrick´s Day and Kawanzaa.
    It was born of our love for cultural expressions and the belief that we are all enriched as we learn to respect and celebrate each other.
    All best wishes to everyone visiting this site.
    Alma Flor Ada