REVIEW: Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
A classic Hanukkah tale, now available in a beautiful anniversary edition. A Caldecott Honor book.
On the first night of Hanukkah, a weary traveler named Hershel of Ostropol eagerly approaches a village, where plenty of latkes and merriment should warm him.
But when he arrives not a single candle is lit. A band of frightful goblins has taken over the synagogue, and the villagers cannot celebrate at all! Hershel vows to help them. Using his wits, the clever trickster faces down one goblin after the next, night after night. But can one man alone save Hanukkah and live to tell the tale?
An original adventure featuring a traditional Jewish folk hero, this clever story has been a family favorite for decades and was named a Caldecott Honor book when it was originally published, and received a Sydney Taylor Award Honor. Trina Schart Hyman’s leering goblins are equal parts terrifying and ridiculous as they match wits with Hershel, trying to keep him from lighting the menorah and celebrating Hanukkah.
Since this is a Caldecott Honor book, I decided to add it to my holiday reading schedule. It features the real life historical character Hershele Ostropoler who lived in the late 18th/early 19th centuries. Here Hershel travels to a small town only to discover they’ve got a goblin problem. Can he prevail against the goblins when the whole town has (obviously) failed? Using his wits and a few props, Hershel faces off against his foes each night – though nights four through seven are not shown or detailed. The last night is, I think, his cleverest and bravest showing.
The ways Hershel overcomes the goblins are inventive, the illustrations are wonderful, and we learn about some Hanukkah traditions but, strangely, the meaning of Hanukkah isn’t actually explained in the story. There is an afterward that does this but I would have thought Hershel could have snuck in some explanations to the goblins along the way. Still as one person said, this is a book that adults could read to children over and over and not lose their minds. B