Hanukkah is the Jewish holiday most visible to non-Jews. Usually occurring near Christmas, it gets quite a lot of attention simply because of a coincidence of the calendar. One positive result of Hanukkah's increasing commercialism is a feast of new books fiction and nonfiction for all ages. The publishing industry gives adults no excuse not to give at least one new book to children during the eight-day holiday.
Festival of Lights is a particularly valuable offering. It's the story of Hanukkah, plain and simple its origins and significance told in concise, action-filled language. Colorful, detailed, and spirited pictures are balanced with just the right amount of text on each page, which sustains the interest of readers and listeners. The main story, of course, is the Maccabee victory over Greek oppressors, and the miracle of the cruse of oil that burned for eight days instead of one. Following this are explanations of the menorah and dreidel legends, simple instructions for making and playing with dreidels, and music for one of the traditional holiday songs: a Rock of Ages (Ma-oz Tzur).
Such merits make the book an ideal introduction to the holiday for non-readers and readers up to age eight. It can form the cornerstone of a family holiday library, re-focus a burgeoning Hanukkah collection, or serve as the festival's literary representative for schools and churches. First published in 1987, the re-issue of Festival of Lights happily makes it available to new audiences. Making history and legend entertaining and memorable, it is a pleasant reminder of the real reason for the season.