How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah?

Even during the holidays, little dinosaurs sometimes misbehave. It’s tempting to peek at brightly wrapped presents, snatch a dreidel, or grab all the gelt!  

Children and their parents will laugh at this playful glimpse at some mischievous antics as the family gathers and fresh latkes are served. But when mama comes in with the holiday lights, it’s time to share a special tradition. How do dinosaurs celebrate Chanukah? With an abundance of love, joy, memories, and gratitude. 

Children will fall in love with each mischievous dinosaur that appears in brightly colored full-page illustrations. Each two-page spread has one sentence printed in large font. Plus, the short rhyming lines add to the playful nature of the picture book. 

The first half of the book focuses on the dinosaurs’ naughty behavior by asking a question: “Does he peek at the presents stashed under Dad’s bed?” The dinosaurs’ naughty behavior includes one dinosaur who is sneaking off with the gelt and “squeezing the candy coins till they all melt.” Readers will giggle at the family’s funny facial expressions, which show their dismay. 

The second part of the book uses the same brightly colored illustrations to show how the dinosaurs actually act during the holiday. Instead of misbehaving, a dinosaur sings “the holiday prayer, takes turns with the dreidel, remembers to share,” and other good behavior. Throughout the book, the menorah often shines in the window. While the story highlights the holiday traditions, readers unfamiliar with the holiday will not understand some of the terms such as dreidel, latkes, and gelt. 

How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? uses silly dinosaurs to show the importance of acting properly during the eight days of Chanukah. While the story doesn’t explain the meaning behind the traditions, readers familiar with the holiday will enjoy the unique perspective that shows the joy of the Chanukah season. Hoppy Hanukkah! by Linda Glaser is another fun picture book that introduces readers to Jewish customs.

Sexual Content 

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Violence 

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Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None

Language   

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content 

  • The book highlights the traditions of Chanukah.

How to Excavate a Heart

Shani Levine needs a break from New York. Following a bad breakup with her girlfriend, Sadie, she would rather be literally anywhere else. So when she snags a highly coveted internship at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. over winter break, Shani is elated. 

Shani’s high spirits are crushed, however, when she makes an enemy: her mother almost accidentally runs over a girl, May, while moving Shani into her D.C. lodgings. Shani is determined to watch her step from now on, but she keeps crossing paths with May. As they begin to talk, Shani begins to develop feelings for May. Once it becomes clear that May likes her too, the two girls begin to date, and for a short time everything is perfect. But can Shani juggle her new relationship and her internship? And is she really ready to be in a relationship again so soon after a messy breakup?

Readers will fall in love with Shani and May as they try to tackle these big questions together. How to Excavate a Heart is a cute, fun, fluffy romcom guaranteed to elicit smiles and warm feelings, even on the coldest winter days. At times, the pacing is quite slow, so readers looking for action should expect to consume this story in sweet, bite-sized chunks or over one long, lazy day. Because of this pacing, not every scene necessarily drives the plot forward, making some parts of the book less vivid and exciting than others  However, what really ties this book together is its cast of lovable side characters, from Beatrice, the eccentric and surprisingly spry elderly woman who houses Shani during her stay in D.C., to May’s adorable pet corgi, Raphael. Characters like these make even the slow moments delightful, especially for readers who are drawn to character-heavy books.

Teenagers will heavily relate to Shani as she struggles to find her place in a new city while also dealing with complex feelings and relationships. Issues such as love, loss, coming out of the closet, and adjusting to new stages of life are handled in a way that is informative and validating but not too heavy. How to Excavate a Heart features great Jewish and queer representation and is a perfect escape for readers dealing with big changes in their life.

Sexual Content 

  • When Shani reminisces about her failed relationship with Sadie, she explains that their relationship fell apart after having sex for the first time. “I was stressed, because if we were in love, then the next logical step was sex. And I had never done it before, I felt I needed to prepare…We had sex for the first time a couple days after we said ‘I love you,’ and, as it turned out, it was also the last time.”
  • Beatrice tells Shani that she’ll be sleeping in the bedroom Beatrice used to share with her husband. She tells her that “all six of [her] children were conceived in this room.” Later, Shani asks Beatrice where she’ll be sleeping if she’s taking the bedroom. Beatrice replies, “The attic. I haven’t been able to fall asleep in this room since my husband died. But I’m glad it’ll be put to good use.” Shani thinks, “It certainly won’t be ‘put to good use’ in the same way it was when Beatrice and her husband conceived their children here.” 
  • May’s dad, Greg, is the local weatherman. Tasha, another girl staying in Beatrice’s house, describes him as “kind of a DILF.” DIFL is slang for “daddy I’d like to fuck,” or an attractive older man.
  • Shani talks about her relationship problems with her internship supervisor, Mandira, who is also queer and in a committed relationship. Shani tells her about her bad experience with sex and how she doesn’t think she’ll ever have sex again because it ruins relationships. Mandira counters with, “Sex can be amazing. Especially queer sex. And especially if you communicate what you want with your partner.”
  • Shani’s best friend, Taylor, comes to visit her in D.C. on New Year’s. Taylor tells Shani that she was invited to a New Year’s Eve party by Teddy, the ex-boyfriend of their acquaintance Amy from Model UN, and invites Shani to come with her. Shani asks Taylor if she’s trying to hook up with Teddy; Taylor confirms this.
  • After work, Shani goes to May’s house. When Shani gets there, Shani smells badly so she takes a shower. They end up showering together but don’t have sex. “I keep my eyes closed as I press her closer to me, so that as much of our bodies are touching as possible. We explore parts of each other we haven’t before. I kiss down her neck to her chest, marveling at the fact that I get to touch her like this. But after a few minutes, the hot water runs out, and my knees hurt, and we’re kneeling in cold water.”
  • After a dinner date, Shani and May go back to Shani’s place. They start kissing, intending to have sex. Shani starts feeling uncomfortable but doesn’t want to ruin the mood. Shani hears Beatrice scream and goes to check on her. When Shani returns to the bedroom, she tells May she’s tired and doesn’t want to pick up where they left off. When May asks if she can just sleep over, Shani says no and May storms out.
  • Shani and May break up. While Shani is mourning her relationship, she texts her ex, Sadie, asking why she broke up with her. Shani tells the reader that she texted Sadie because she doesn’t actually remember having sex with her. “That Thursday, the day we said ‘I love you,’ we went to a house party and got drunk. Too drunk. Like, so-drunk-I-barely-remember drunk. Then we went back to my room. The only memories I have of that night come in flashes: Sadie grabbing my waist, leading me up to my room. Sadie kissing me. Sadie pulling down my pants, and her own. Me, copying what she did. Being excited to do it, to please her. And then, nothing. My memory goes dark. Until we woke up the next morning, both of us naked. Me with a splitting headache. Sadie grinning.” Sadie wanted to have sex again that morning. Shani told her she wasn’t ready; after pushing some more, Sadie ended it. 

Violence 

  • When moving Shani into her D.C. lodgings during a snowstorm, Shani’s mom almost runs May over with her car. “My mom finally sees her and frantically tries to slam on the brakes. She pumps them over and over, but between the snow and ice the car won’t stop. Then there’s a thud. The bump. Not a hard bump, but still. A bump. We bumped a person with our car.” 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • Beatrice has a beige quote block at the top of the stairs that says, “Alcohol: because no great story ever started with someone eating a salad.”
  • At a New Year’s Eve party, alcohol is served. Shani pours herself a glass of a mystery drink that is “pink and sparkly and has mint leaves and blueberries and pomegranate seeds floating at the surface.” She says that it is “unbelievably delicious and barely tastes like alcohol.”
  • When Shani remembers the night before she and Sadie broke up, she says that they “went to a house party and got drunk. Too drunk. Like, so-drunk-I-barely-remember drunk.”

Language 

  • Profanity, such as variations of “fuck” and “shit” are used as exclamations often.

Supernatural

  • On her first night in D.C., Shani tries not to think about “the half-century-old sex ghosts haunting the room.”
  • Beatrice’s son, George, comes over to the house. He starts a conversation with Shani, in which he jokes that his dad haunts the room where she sleeps.

Spiritual Content 

  • When driving Shani to D.C., her mom sadly says that Shani won’t be home for Christmas for the first time. Shani reminds her that they don’t even celebrate Christmas. Her mom counters that it’s still the holidays, to which Shani responds, “Is it, though? Like, is it really the holidays? Hanukkah’s over, and it’s complete bullshit anyway. It was invented by American capitalists so that Jewish kids could be included in the Christian hegemony.”
  • After thinking about her failed relationship with Sadie, Shani resolves never to have sex again and be “the Jewish version of a nun.”
  • Beatrice’s house is decorated with “crosses and portraits of saints, along with some Christmas decorations– garlands, candy canes, a couple of wreaths.” Shani initially worries “that she’s really religious and that…she’ll be disappointed that I’m Jewish.”
  • Shani gets breakfast at a café next door, which has Christmas music playing inside. Shani thinks, “I know I complained to my mom about how Hanukkah isn’t a real holiday and how I don’t want to assimilate into mainstream Christian America, but the thing is…I fucking love Christmas music.”
  • Shani comes over to walk May’s dog, Raphael. Shani awkwardly tries to make small talk, and asks if May is Jewish because she saw a menorah in her window. May says, “Yeah, I am. But I’m not really that religious.” She later talks about how much she loves Hanukkah.
  • Mandira, Shani’s internship supervisor, tells her she’s going to a Christmas party later that night with her girlfriend. Shani is initially confused because Mandira doesn’t celebrate Christmas, but Mandira explains that she doesn’t celebrate in a religious way but her girlfriend does.
  • Shani comes over to walk May’s dog despite a blizzard. When May opens the door, she sees Shani shaking from the cold and exclaims, “Jesus Christ.” Shani jokes, “It’s almost His birthday, huh?”
  • Shani and May get snowed in at May’s house on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, the snow had stopped and been mostly cleared away, so Shani suggests that they partake in “Jewish Christmas” (watching movies and eating Chinese food). 

Hanukkah Moon

When Isobel is invited to Aunt Luisa’s for Hanukkah, she’s not sure what to expect. Aunt Luisa has recently arrived from Mexico. “At Aunt Luisa’s you’ll get to celebrate the Hanukkah Moon,” Isobel’s father promises. Isobel’s days at Aunt Luisa’s are filled with fun and surprises – a new camera, a dreidel piñata filled with sweets, and a mysterious late-night visit to welcome the luna nueva, the new moon that appears on Hanukkah.

When Isobel goes to visit her aunt, she experiences the Hanukkah Moon for the first time. Aunt Luisa explains how Rosh Chodesh is traditionally celebrated with each noon moon. The holiday honors the women who, unlike the males Israelites, refused to contribute gold to a golden calf. The special holiday illustrates the little-known tradition of the Latin-Jewish community. However, Isobel doesn’t just learn about the Hanukkah Moon, she also enjoys getting to know her aunt, who teaches photography at a college.

As the characters talk about some of the holiday traditions, the illustrations bring the story to life. Using soft yellow and purples, the illustrations are uniquely beautiful. Readers will want to look carefully at the picture’s details so they don’t miss anything. When Isobel and Aunt Luisa go outside, readers will need to look for the animals that are hiding in the shadows. Even though Hanukkah Moon is a picture book, younger readers will need help with the text-heavy pages and the unfamiliar words.

The author’s note appears, which is easy to miss, appears in small print on the first page of the story. However, readers will want to take the time to read the author’s note, which explains the Spanish Jew’s connection to the story. The end of the book also has a glossary that will help readers understand the traditions.

Hanukkah Moon isn’t necessarily an amazing story; however, the story focuses on the multicultural aspects of the celebration, which allows the reader to understand the tradition behind the Hanukkah Moon. Anyone who wants to learn more about the Jewish holiday should read Hanukkah Moon, which highlights the importance of creativity and kindness.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Hoppy Hanukkah!

Violet and Simon, two small bunnies, are excited about Hanukkah. Simon is ready to light all the candles and then blow them right out! But Mama and Papa explain how to celebrate Hanukkah by lighting one candle each night at sunset and placing the menorah in the window for all to see. Grandma and Grandpa come over too, and there are latkes, presents, and a dreidel game.

Violet and Simon’s excitement is perfectly portrayed. The two bunnies are introduced to the traditions of Hanukkah as the family talk about what makes it feel like Hanukkah. Even though the story shows Hanukkah traditions, the book does not explain their significance. The cute conclusion has the mother bunny tucking the kids into bed as she says, “My little bunnies! You know what really makes it feel like Hanukkah? You!”

Hoppy Hanukkah illustrates the cute rabbit family in brightly colored pictures. Several of the pictures use thought bubbles so readers can see what the little rabbits are thinking. The illustrations show the importance of family and the Hanukkah traditions. The story has 1-5 sentences on each page, which makes Hoppy Hanukkah a good story to read aloud. Hoppy Hanukkah would be an excellent book to introduce Jewish customs without going into the history of the traditions.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

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