Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel. Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman I’m not anywhere close to Jewish, and I know that Hanukkah is a pretty minor Jewish holiday as such things goes. Still, I’ve always loved both the holiday and this cracking good story, which I first read when it was published in Cricket magazine in the early 80s, with small black-and-white illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman. Her full-color, full-size illustrations here are a delight (as well as winning a Caldecott Honor). Though I brought Mr. FP all sorts of holiday books home from the library, my copy of this is the one that he wanted to read every day.
Oh, wait, you wanted to hear about the story? Ok, then. Hershel – the traditional Jewish trickster – is wandering out alone on the first day Hanukkah, hoping to find a warm house and some potato latkes. Imagine his surprise when he comes to the village and find neither candles nor latkes. The rabbi tells him that the village is plagued by goblins. They’ve taken over the synagogue and refuse to let anyone celebrate Hanukkah. The only way to stop them is to trick them into keeping the candles lit for the first seven nights on Hanukkah. On the eighth night, the Goblin King must light them himself. Hershel volunteers, and faces goblins each more comically grotesque than the last until the final, truly scary, King of the Goblins arrives. It’s a little wordy for the very young – I tried and failed to read it to a three-year-old once – but from four or five up, the combination of great storytelling, humor, drama and fabulous pictures are unbeatable.