Best Children’s Hanukkah and Christmas Books: Holiday Books for Children of Interfaith Families
Holiday Books for Children of Interfaith Families
Holiday books for children used to focus on either Christmas or Hanukkah. Christmas books for Christian families, and Hanukkah books for Jewish families. These days, many children grow up in interfaith families who celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah. As such, educating children on the traditions and holidays that others celebrate is exceedingly important. It is also essential in a rapidly-growing multicultural society. A parent needs all the tools she can get her hands on to impart the value of unconditional love towards fellowmen. Here’s a compilation of best children’s Hanukkah and Christmas books. These books talk about holiday traditions of both.
Newest Holiday Book for Children Interfaith Families
Mr. Shipman’s Kindergarten Chronicles: December Celebrations
by Terance Shipman (Author)
Age Range: 5 – 12 years
The first book on our list of holiday books for children of interfaith families is the latest to be released. It was published barely two months ago in October 2017. First-time author Terance Shipman recreates the excitement, magic, and beauty of a December celebration in a kindergarten classroom. He masterfully builds up the anticipation while deftly weaving entertaining stories about the different cultural traditions that are celebrated during December. Of course, these include Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. This comes as no surprise, as Shipman is a 23-year veteran teacher. He spent his first eleven years teaching kindergarten, the rest with elementary-aged students.
Mr. Shipman’s Kindergarten Chronicles: December Celebrations is based on the real-life experiences Shipman had in his classroom. Today, he remains in contact with many of the students he taught in kindergarten. The children’s book is about the relationship he builds with his students and their parents and all the fun they have during the December holidays.
Best Holiday Books for Children of Interfaith Families
Oskar and the Eight Blessings
by Tanya Simon (Author), Richard Simon (Author), Mark Siegel (Illustrator)
Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Winner of the 2015 National Jewish Book Award for Children’s Literature
Oskar is a refugee fleeing from the horrors of Kristallnacht. He arrives by ship in New York City with nothing but an address and a photograph of a woman he doesn’t know, his aunt Esther. It is both the last night of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, 1938. He walks the length of Manhattan, from the Battery to his new home in the north of the city. He experiences the city’s many holiday sights, and encounters its various residents. With each encounter, Oskar receives a small act of kindness. He remembers his father’s last words “Even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings.” Thus is he welcomed to the city. Each blessing that he received helped him on his way to a new life in the new world.
Mark Siegel’s illustrations provide beautiful portraits of his evening walk. Each scene is executed in muted brown tones with just a few bits of color.
The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story
by Lemony Snicket (Author), Lisa Brown (Illustrator)
Age Range: 4 and up
Most Reviewed Holiday Book for Children of Interfaith Families
A yummy but particularly irate latke resists being boiled in hot oil and runs screaming through the village. In doing so, he spreads not only his delicious aroma, but also the true meaning of a very important holiday that has nothing to do with Christmas. Flashing colored lights, cane-shaped candy, a pine tree, even Santa Claus all appear and even speak in the story. This small book is funny yet effective in communicating that Hanukkah is not just a Jewish version of Christmas. So the only question now is: applesauce or sour cream?
This book was released ten years ago in October 2007. Since then, it has been rated more than 2,200 times, and received more than 300 reviews in Goodreads. With these numbers, it is cementing its position as one of the best holiday books for children of interfaith families.
by Sharon Robinson (Author), E.B. Lewis (Illustrator)
Age Range: 3 – 5 years
When Jackie Robinson decided to move his family to Brooklyn, the Jewish Satlows welcomed them, while other families protested. Young Steve Satlow, in fact, is thrilled with the idea of a baseball star moving onto his block. Jackie and Steve become friends when the famous second baseman invites Steve to a Dodgers game. While helping the Robinson family decorate their Christmas tree, Steve mentions that his family doesn’t have one. Jackie decides to buy one for them, not realizing that the Satlows don’t celebrate Christmas. After a few awkward moments, Jackie’s gift helps these two families bridge the gap between race and religion.
Jackie’s Gift is a holiday tale based on a true story. The author, Sharon Robinson, is the daughter of Jackie Robinson, famous baseball player for the Brooklyn Dodgers. This humorous story is a wonderful guide to acceptance, kindness, generosity, and diversity. It can be used to help early elementary grade students understand various holidays celebrated by different religions.
E.B. Lewis provides beautiful watercolor illustrations which help the reader easily envision the story as it unfolds, down to the emotions felt by the characters in the story.
Special Mentions: Best Children’s Hanukkah and Christmas Books
My Two Holidays: A Hanukkah and Christmas Story
by Danielle Novack (Author), Phyllis Harris (Illustrator)
Age Range: 3 – 5 years
Some children celebrate Christmas. Some celebrate Hanukkah. But Sam celebrates both! He asks his mom why they celebrate both and she explains that his dad is Christian while she is Jewish. At first, he feels embarrassed and thinks he is different because of this. But in the end, he captures the pride of who he really is.
Sam’s mom mentions holiday icons such as a Christmas tree, Santa, lighting a menorah, playing dreidel and eating latkes. Unfortunately, she doesn’t take the time to explain what the holidays what the holidays really are all about.
My Two Holidays is written by a clinical psychologist. It is certainly one of the best holiday books for children of interfaith families worth mentioning.
Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift
by Dara Goldman (Author, Illustrator)
Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Boris is a Jewish musician. He plays the songs he learned growing up in Russia. Stella is a baker. She bakes cakes and pastries like her father used to back in Italy. Boris and Stella are a pair of best friend bears who live in the city. They like watching movies, wearing hats, and spending time with each other. At holiday time, they want to give each other the best gift for Christmas/Hanukka. But the best gifts cost money and they don’t have much. They each sacrifice something very special to be able to afford their gifts.
Boris and Stella is a great storybook for teaching a diversity lesson of how other people (bears?) celebrate different holidays. This is also a great picture book as it tells much of the story through pictures. The story also pays homage to O. Henry‘s The Gift of the Magi.
Nonna’s Hanukkah Surprise
by Karen Fisman (Author), Martha Aviles (Illustrator)
Age Range: 6 – 7 years
Rachel plans to visit her grandmother in Italy in December. But she worries that she won’t be able to celebrate Hanukkah because her Italian relatives celebrate Christmas. But her parents reassure her that they will celebrate Hanukkah with her father’s family. They even give her a super cool menorah with a team of all-girl Maccabees to hold the candles. But Rachel loses her gift on the plane! She is heartbroken, but her smart grandmother Nonna comes up with the perfect solution and steps in to save the day. This book includes a short description of Hanukkah, with another paragraph at the end to add a little more. This title would make a nice read-aloud for an interfaith holiday storytime. The book is attractively illustrated and is both humorous and tender.
>>> See also: Best New Children’s Books of December