Synopses & Reviews
A retelling of a Jewish folkale reminds readers of the first Chanukah and of Mattathias's bravery in protecting his faith. Once in a far-off village there nearly was a year without Chanukah. The withering olive trees produced to olives for oil, and without oil there would be no lights for the menorahs. Hayim, the poorest man in the village, said to himself, "We cannot have a year without Chanukah. I will ask the Almighty for help." Despite mockery and laughter from the villagers, Hayim asks the local scribe to write a letter to the Almighty. In it, Hayim prays for oil to light the town's menorahs. The poor man takes his letter to the highest hill and sends it off on the strongest breeze. Hayim's prayers are answered, and the villagers can celebrate Chanukah—but many in the town are convinced that Hayim is a thief. Neil Waldman's lyrical illustrations complement Sarah Marwil Lamstein's elegant text in this Sydney Taylor Honor Book.
"Lamstein (Annie's Shabbat) polishes up timeless motifs about the mysterious ways of God in this dexterous retelling of a folktale from the Middle East. After a terrible drought, the poorest man in the village relies on his faith to bring everyone enough oil to light their menorahs for all the nights of Hanukkah: he writes his request and mails the letter to the Almighty 'on the wind.' Using the frames and panels characteristic of his compositions, Waldman (The Snowflake) gracefully evokes deserts, weathered Middle Eastern villages hugging barren mountainsides, and trees bending under the weight of thick, curving clouds. He also throws in anthropomorphized cottages with face-like features that move from dejected to glad expressions as the story concludes, injecting a discordant note into settings that otherwise heighten the humanity and organic spirituality of the tale. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"More than a holiday folktale, this one brings out the significance of graceful benevolence and humble appreciation."--Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"A fine choice for a holiday read-aloud for young children; it will also be welcomed by older readers, who may recognize some of the other Jewish themes Lamstein skillfully weaves into the story." --Booklist
* "The spiritual message in the romantic text is wonderfully portrayed with Waldman's full double-paged spreads done in mellifluous watercolors and micron pen. . . . More than a holiday folktale." --Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"This small gem will be an excellent addition to holiday collections." --Library Media Connection
When there is no oil for Chanukah, Hayim, the poorest man in the village, sends the Almighty a letter, asking for help.
After asking the local scribe to write a letter to send to the Almighty, Hayim gets his prayers to light the town's menorah answered just in time to celebrate Chanukah, but when the townsfolk become suspicious of his good deed, Hayim relies on his faith to convince everyone of the truth.
About the Author
Sarah Marwil Lamstein
is the author of Annie's Shabbat,
which was named to Booklist's
1998 Top Ten Religion Books for Youth. Her other books include the novel Hunger Moon
and From the Mango Tree and Other Folktales from Nepal,
coauthored with Kavita Ram Shrestha. She lives with her husband in Newton, Massachusetts.
Neil Waldman has written and illustrated more than fifty books for children, including his recent autobiography, Out of the Shadows: An Artist's Journey. His work has received many awards, including the Christopher Award. He lives in White Plains, New York.