Wednesday, 26 October 2022

Why is This Hanukkah Book Different from All Others?

Confused about the headline? We’re cruising towards Hanukkah, but it sounds like a Passover quiz.  The fact is the words Mah Nishtana do apply to my latest book The Boston Chocolate Party. The answers are multi-faceted, beginning with its backstory.

When Rabbi Deborah Prinz contacted me five years ago about collaborating on a children’s book dealing with Jews in the chocolate trade, Hanukkah was the last thing on my mind. After writing Hanukkah Around the World and Nathan Blows Out the Hanukkah Candles, I thought I was done with books on this holiday.

Since America’s first Jews were instrumental in introducing chocolate to the American colonies, we settled on creating a story set during the colonial period.  I came up with the fun title playing on The Boston Tea Party. Rabbi Prinz had already authored a non-fiction book for adults entitled On the Chocolate Trail, so she had historical facts at her fingertips. Then one day my quirky brain nudged me into finding out the exact date of The Boston Tea Party. A quick Google search revealed that it took place on December 16, 1773. My goofy side asked: what were the dates of Hanukkah that year? Again, I consulted Google and, lo and behold, the Boston Tea Party fell on the last night of Hanukkah! Faced with this startling historical fact, my head began to spin. Another Hanukkah book?

Yes! Another Hanukkah book. But not just any Hanukkah book. With its rich story layers, The Boston Chocolate Party can be read all year-round, which is why it’s different from all other Hanukkah books published this year. A summary of the layers:

  • The only Hanukkah book out this year set in Colonial America, it provides an unparalleled parallel between the freedom sought by the Colonists (beginning with the Boston Tea Party) and the freedom fought for by the ancient Maccabees. The theme of freedom means that beyond Hanukkah, this book is a great read for May’s American Jewish Heritage Month and the Fourth of July…and every other day and month!
  • It opens up a window to Jewish diversity. America’s first Jews were Sephardi. Not only were they instrumental in introducing hot chocolate to the colonies, they also had different Hanukkah practices. Our fictional Mendes family has a Hanukkiah that doesn’t at all resemble the Ashkenazi menorah most of us are familiar with. They also have their own Hanukkah culinary delicacy – and it’s not latkes!
  • A fabulously illustrated double spread shows how chocolate beans were processed and turned into hot chocolate during colonial times. Why is this important? Guess what the colonists drank when tea became too expensive!
  • Aside from being a story of freedom, it is also a touching story of friendship. During today’s rough and tumble times, it is important for children to know that they can always count on the loyalty of a good friend.

So why is this Hanukkah book different from all others? I think you know the answer(s) and enjoy the book!

Shabbat Around the World

We Jews are a diverse people, with communities all over the world creating engaging Shabbat customs.

You can learn about them through my unique,
digital-story / lesson-plan series that
It Gets You and Your Students Involved!