The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah is a memorable Hanukkah parable and an excellent picture book for the Jewish Festival of Lights. Martha Seif Simpson skillfully places the emphasis of this heartwarming story toward the merits of altruistic behavior.
Greed and instant gratification are universal themes that affect both the young and the old. Prime examples of this negative behavior are initially seen in the shopkeeper as well as the first couple of children who enter the store.
Early on the shopkeeper sets the tone when he states,
… I am more concerned with turning a profit than I am in miracles.
The parents in the first two scenarios give in to their children’s rude and demanding behavior. Instead of simply putting limits on the number of holiday gifts, the affluent parents appease their children’s whims. Both children are fascinated by a stunning dreidel. Each forces a parent to purchase the dreidel. In both cases, the spoiled children are disappointed that the dreidel will not spin. The parents return the dreidel.
Toward the end of the story, the storekeeper is touched by a poor child’s appreciation of merely being able to look at the store’s toys. He offers the defective dreidel to the boy. Apprehensively, he accepts the gift. When the boy spins the dreidel, the Hebrew letters are magically changed. The nun, gimmel, hay and shin have now become nun, koof, hay and shin. The meaning of the traditional acronym had been transformed to “A small miracle happened here.”
The attitude and behavior of the storeowner has been altered. He no longer looks at life as a series of monetary transactions.
Durga Yael Bernhard’s watercolor illustrations add to the beauty of the story. She captures the unique charm of village life and provides useful picture clues to anyone who is listening to the story or attempting to read the book on their own. The placement of the pictures and the oversize text makes the book reader friendly.
Anyone unfamiliar with Hanukkah or the dreidel game will appreciate the Author’s Note and Appendix. Both provide useful and accurate information.
Hanukkah starts the night of December 16. It’s not too late to pick up a copy of this uplifting Hanukkah parable. It is a wonderful addition for a home, school, or public library.
Earlier this week, I interviewed Martha Seif Simpson.
Anyone who leaves a comment on this blog by Sunday, December 28, 2014 will be eligible for a book giveaway. Martha will send the randomly selected winner an autographed copy of The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin.
In exchange for an honest interview and review, I was sent a copy of The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin.
New Hanukkah Picture Book (2014)
2 New books for Chanukah (2013)
Sandra Bornstein is the author of MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE. It is available on Amazon. Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons. The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, the 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and received an Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.