While I don’t have exact statistics, it’s pretty safe to say that the Christmas books still significantly outnumber the Hanukkah books. A few years ago, when I was working at another children’s bookstore, a woman saw the Fancy Nancy Christmas book and was severely disappointed. She and her family were Jewish. Her daughter loved Fancy Nancy, but the existence of a Fancy Nancy Christmas book, even if the mother didn’t buy it herself, still made a statement about Nancy’s religious affiliations and that alienated her. Many popular book characters do have their own Christmas volume, Nancy, George, Judy Moody, Olivia. The list goes on. That’s why, this year, it was so nice to see Jane Yolen, Mark Teague, and Blue Sky Press release two holiday volumes: How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? AND How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas? ($16.99 each) The structure for the text is similar to all the other “How Do Dinosaurs” books. The book sets up several bad behavior possibilities and then resolves with a string of good behaviors. The illustrations are what really make this series. The dinosaurs all live in rather suburban settings with two human parents. Small enough to live in houses, the dinosaurs are much bigger than the parents and implicitly reflect the enormous havoc even the smallest children can cause. The dinosaurs’ behavior is so outlandish that it’s humorous, but there is a toddler truth to everything they do: “On Christmas Eve, does a dinosaur sleep? Does he go up to bed without making a peep?” (modeling good behavior) “Or does he sneak out to check what’s to see?” (addressing bad behavior). The Hanukkah book sold out in our store before I had a chance to gather quotations, but it follows a similar pattern. For such prescriptive books, this series is quite fun and whether or not kids actually learn any behavioral lessons, they’ll still enjoy reading the books.
Also new this year is Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko (Knopf, $16.99), in which the child narrator joyously celebrates the dual traditions in her family. Her parents participate in their respective holidays, but also cross-over and actively engage with each other’s. I believe Seth Cohen immortalized Chrismakkuh back in 2003 and now we finally have a picture book that reflects both traditions. In the back of the book, there is a timeline of holidays from a variety of cultural traditions that occur throughout the year.