Review by Gabrielle Tselos
Candlewick Press, 2020
40 pages, ISBN: 9780763697419, Hardcover, $24.99 CAD
Ages 5-8 years
Picture Book, Fantasy
Nate Gadol was a great big spirit who had eyes as shiny as golden coins and a smile that was lantern- bright. In answer to people’s prayers, he made things last as long as they needed to.
Filled with the magic of the holiday season, The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol, is packed with entertaining images and a captivating storyline. If you’re on the hunt for a fun and educational Hanukkah gift for your kid, look no further than this book explaining the miracle of Hanukkah to them in a new and entertaining way.
This picture book follows the “superhero” Nate Gadol, a figure based on what is considered the Hanukkah miracle called “Nas Gadol” in Hebrew. It depicts the Glaser family struggling to get through the holidays—both Purim and Hanukkah—and how Nate helps them bring the Hanukkah magic into their home by providing food and presents. The story explains how the tradition of presents on the Holiday of Hanukkah came to be, while also educating the reader about other important Jewish holidays such as Purim and the tradition of giving gifts to friends.
Even for non-Jewish children, this book is a great way to learn about Jewish holidays. It also includes Santa—a way to show that both cultures can exist simultaneously. The relationship between Santa and Nate allows children to understand that religions go far back, and it is normal for different kids to celebrate different holidays. This book is a window for non-Jewish children to become familiar with important holidays in the Jewish Culture, but it is also a mirror for Jewish children to see their traditions represented. My only critique is the switching between Santa being called “Santa” and other times referred to as “Nick”—based on “Old Saint Nick”—may be confusing for children.
The illustrations by Hawkes are incredible through their colour and detail, especially in the facial expressions of the characters in the story. Each page features small gold specs woven throughout the depictions of Nate Gadol, adding a magical touch to the book. The detailed pictures also help draw in younger readers who may rely on pictures to help form the storyline.
Overall, I find this story to be an exciting new twist on the typical Hanukkah miracle. As a Jew myself, it was very nice to see a book representing my culture and the important traditions that make up our holidays. As a child, I would have loved to see more Hanukkah books like The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol. It would certainly make a perfect gift for upcoming holiday seasons.
Gabrielle Tselos is a UBC student, from Saint Paul, Minnesota. In her free time, she enjoys writing, photography, and baking delicious treats for her friends and family.