The Miracle of Hanukkah

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Bereishit – Genesis – 1:3

Adler, David A. The Story of Hanukah. New York: Holiday House, 2011. A straight-forward informative writing style by an award-winning author. Sophisticated full-page coloured illustrations by Jill Weber. Includes a recipe for latkes and directions for playing driedel. Highly recommended for readers 8-years-old and up. 

“He shone a light in the darkness for the upright, [for He is] gracious and merciful and righteous.”  Tehillim – Psalms – 112:4

Aloian, Molly. Hanukkah New York: Crabtree Pub., 2009.

An informative addition to the ‘Celebrations in My World’ series. Large print, colour photographs, a glossary, and an index combine to create a useful resource for readers 7 to 14-years-old.

“Even darkness will not obscure [anything] from You, and the night will light up like day; as darkness so is the light.” Tehillim – Psalms – 139:12

Baum, Maxie. I Have a Little Dreidel. New York: Scholastic, 2006. 

“An illustrated retelling of the classic Hannukah song, with directions for playing the dreidel game and a recipe for making latkes.” – CIP.  Colourful illustrations and rhyming text combine in this cheerful picture book for listeners 5 to 8-years-old. 

Bodden, Valerie. Hanukkah. Mankato, Minn.: Creative Education, 2006. 

Includes directions for making a menorah, a glossary, and an index. Part of the ‘My First Look at Holidays’ series for 5 to 8-year-olds. 

“For You are my lamp, O’ Lord; And the Lord does light my darkness.” Shmuel II – 2 Samuel – 2:29

Heiligman, Deborah. Celebrate Hanukkah with Light, Latkes, and Dreidels. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2006.

Concludes with 6 pages of additional information including a recipe for latkes and directions for playing dreidel. Part of the ‘Holidays Around the World’ series for 8 to 14-year-olds. 

“For You light my lamp; the Lord, my God, does light my darkness” Tehillim – Psalms – 8:29 

Hesse, Karen. The Stone Lamp: Eight Stories of Hanukkah Through History. New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2003.

“A collection of eight poems, each taking place on a different night of Hanukkah and following the history of Jews from twelfth-century England to twentieth-century Israel.” – CIP.  Historical information accompanies each poem by an award-winning writer. Full-page coloured illustrations by award-winning Brian Pinkney. Recommended for readers 11-years-old and up.

Kimmel, Eric. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. New York: Holiday House, 2014, c1985. 

“Relates how Hershel outwits the goblins that haunt the old synagogue and prevent the village people from celebrating Hanukkah.” – CIP. A Caldecott winner recommended for 6 to 11 year olds. 

Kimmel, Eric. The Jar of Fools: Eight Hanukkah Stories from Chelm. New York: Holiday House, 2000.

“Drawing on traditional Jewish folklore, these Hanukkah stories relate the antics of the people of Chelm, thought–perhaps incorrectly–to be a town of fools.” – CIP. Illustrated by Mordecai Gerstein.

Lamstein, Sarah Marwil. Letter on the End: A Chanukah Tale. Honesdale, Pa.: Boyds Mills Press, 2007.

“When there is no oil for Chanukah, Hayim, the poorest man in the village, sends the Almighty a letter, asking for help.” – CIP.

Pinkwater, Daniel. Beautiful Yetta’s Hanukkah Kitten. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2014. 

“Huddling with her parrot friends in a warm nest atop a street light as the winter begins, Yetta the Yiddish chicken discovers a stray kitten and must find it a safe home when her parrot friends are reluctant to adopt it.” – CIP.  Exuberantly illustrated by Jill Pinkwater with a chicken that speaks Yiddish and parrots that speak Spanish. Pronunciation guides are provided. Highly recommended for three to thirteen year olds. 

Snicket, Lemony. The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story. San Francisco: McSweeney’s Books, 2007.

A humorous, informative, and inspiring story by a master storyteller. Highly recommended for readers 9-years-old and up. 

Sper, Emily. Hanukkah : a Counting Book in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish. New York: Scholastic, 2003, c2001. 

A brightly coloured picture book with cutouts of candles and pronunciation guides for the Hebrew and Yiddish. Includes a short history of the holiday. Highly recommended. 

Yolen, Jane and Mark Teague. How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah?. New York: Blue Sky Press, 2012. 

“Illustrations and rhyming text present some of the different ways a well-behaved dinosaur can celebrate the eight days and nights of Chanukah.” – CIP. Part of a series of ‘How Do Dinosaurs…’ picture books recommended for 2 to 6 year olds. 

“Your sun shall no longer set, neither shall your moon be gathered in, for the Lord shall be to you for an everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be completed.” Yeshayahu – Isaiah – 60:20

Happy Christmas!

“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.” – Eric Sevareid, American journalist

The Birds of Bethlehem

dePaola, Tomie. The Birds of Bethlehem. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012.

“On the morning of the first Christmas, the colorful birds of Bethlehem gather to talk about the exciting events they have witnessed, from the long line of people approaching the town to the stable where a newborn baby lies.” – CIP.

“Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.” – G.K. Chesterton, English writer

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

Moore, Clement C. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015.

An exquisitely designed picture book adapted and illustrated by Daniel Kirk. The style and size of the font are perfectly suited to the colourful and cheerful illustrations. Highly recommended.

Little Elfie One

Jane, Pamela. Little Elfie One. New York: Balzer + Bray, 2015.

“Elves, snowmen, stars, and reindeer cavort at the North Pole on Christmas Eve, introducing the numbers one through ten.” – CIP. A joyous adaptation of the famous song “Over in the Meadow” illustrated by Jane Manning.  The style and size of the font match the quirky illustrations sure to be enjoyed by readers – and listeners – three to nine years old.

“Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.” – Charles M. Schulz, creator of ‘Peanuts’

Deck the Halls

Becker, Helaine. Deck the Halls: a Canadian Christmas Carol. Toronto: North Winds Press, 2016.

A rollicking Canadianized version with a simple piano transcription at the very end. The full page-illustrations by Werner Zimmerman are full of details sure to be enjoyed by readers four to ten yours old.

Shooting at the Stars

Hendrix, John. Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014. 

Stick Man

Click HERE to watch this story read aloud.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” – Charles Dickens, author of ‘A Christmas Carol’


Poetry often seems obscure, so dense with meaning that reading it feels like a being in a dark fog. So it is not surprising that many students feel a sense of relief when high school poetry classes end and real life begins.

I am a teacher and, for me, poetry is real life. Nevertheless, in my eighth-grade Humanities classes, we don’t spend a lot of time analyzing poems. We talk about them, decipher difficult words, and notice some literary techniques. Mostly, we read them aloud. Over and over. Until finally, in groups, students stand and recite by heart.

The first poem of the year is usually ‘Walkers with the Dawn’ by Langston Hughes:

Being walkers with the dawn and morning,
Walkers with the sun and morning,
We are not afraid of night,
Nor days of gloom,
Nor darkness —
Being walkers with the sun and morning.

Later, we learn ‘My Heart Soars’ by Chief Dan George:

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.

The summit of the mountain,
the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea,
speaks to me.

The faintness of the stars,
the freshness of the morning,
the dew drop on the flower,
speaks to me.

The strength of fire,
the taste of salmon,
the trail of the sun,
And the life that never goes away,
They speak to me.
And my heart soars.

Tears of happiness often fill my eyes when I hear students reciting poems. I am filled with awe, listening to them learn great works of literature that have held people together from one generation to another. Sometimes, while waiting to be dismissed, students recite just for the fun of watching me cry. One year, a few students – while waiting in attendance rows for gym class to begin – spontaneously started reciting ‘No Man is an Island’ by John Donne. Soon, almost 60 of them were loudly reciting in unison. When they were finished, they smiled at me and started again:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Poetry has helped me through hard times in life and I’ve trusted that it would help my students, as well. This week, after a thirteen-year-old girl was killed by an intruder in one of the local high schools, I got an e-mail from a former student:

“As you have heard Abbotsford Senior has experienced tragedy on Tuesday. What you may not know is that I had the unfortunate privilege of administering first aid on the second victim, which saved her life. I email you because I wish to thank you for a poem you made me memorize in the eighth grade, 4 years ago. Not only has it stuck with me as my favourite piece of poetry…, but it has really helped me accept what happened. The poem is by John Donne and it is called “No Man is an Island”…. Thanks again for this poem, and I would like to assure you that I am doing okay,…. Just so you are aware, I give you permission to use this as an example for the importance of poetry.”

I was humbled by this young man who found strength and peace from remembering a poem written almost 400 years ago. This time, my tears were the bittersweet ones that come from seeing children turn into adults. They were the quiet tears that come from seeing people cope with the pain of life through the power of poetry.

We don’t have to always analyze poems. Just learn them. Keep them safely in our hearts. They will help carry us through life.


Happy Diwali!

The Festival of Lights

“This Diwali let us give thanks for all we hold dear: Our health, our family, our friends and to the grace of God which never ends.” – anonymous


Diwali is the most important festival in India. It marks the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. It is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains around the world.  People clean their homes and buy new clothes in preparation for this celebration. And then for five days, they enjoy getting together with their friends and relatives, eating special foods, and setting off fireworks that light up the dark skies.  

Celebrate Diwali

The most important day of the festival is on the darkest night between the middle of October and the middle of November. It is the night of the new moon, the night when we cannot see any light reflected from the moon. This year, Diwali is on October 30th. 


“May this Diwali bring you the utmost in peace and prosperity. May lights triumph over darkness. May peace transcend the earth. May the spirit of light illuminate the world. May the light that we celebrate at Diwali show us the way and lead us together on the path of peace and social harmony. Wishing everyone a very Happy Diwali.” – anonymous 


“Diwali – A festival full of sweet memories, sky full of fireworks, mouth full of sweets, house full of diyas and heart full of enjoyment.” – anonymous


Das, Prodeepta. I is for India. London: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2016. A colourful 32-page alphabet book full of detailed information for elementary and middle school readers.

Dickmann, Nancy. Diwali. Chicago, Ill.: Heinemann Library, 2011. An easy to read 24-page book –  with large photographs, glossary, and index for students learning to do research – recommended for children up to eight years of age.

Heiligman, Deborah. Celebrate Diwali. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2006. A 32-page book – with recipes, card game, map, glossary, bibliography, and internet links –  for readers 11-years-old and up.

Parker-Rock. Michelle. Diwali: the Hindu Festival of Lights, Feasts, and Family. Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Enslow, 2004. A 48-page book – with glossary, index, bibliography, and internet links – for readers 10 to 14 years of age.

Pettiford, Rebecca. Diwali. Minneapolis, Minn.: Bullfrog Books, 2015. A colourful easy to read 24-page book –  with large photographs and index –  for children up to eight years of age.

Ponto, Joanna and Michelle Parker-Rock. Diwali. New York: Enslow Publishing, 2017. An informative easy-to-read 32-page book – with recipes and crafts, glossary and index – for readers 9 years old and up. Part of a series: The Story of Our Holidays.

Singh, Rina. Diwali: Festival of Lights. Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers, 2016. An informative and engaging 93-page book – with coloured photographs, a glossary, and index – highly recommended for readers and researchers 11-years-old and up. Part of a new series: Orca Origins.

Torpie, Kate. Diwali. New York: Crabtree Pub., 2009. A colourful large print 32-page book – with glossary and index – recommended for elementary and middle school students. Part of the ‘Celebrations in My World’ series.

Click HERE for stories set in India.

I is for India

October is Library Month!

“A good library will never be too neat, or too dusty, because somebody will always be in it, taking books off the shelves and staying up late reading them.” Lemony Snicket

Library Month

“Reading is important.
Books are important.
Librarians are important. (Also, libraries are not child-care facilities, but sometimes feral children raise themselves among the stacks.)” – Neil Gaiman

Learn how libraries are organized

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”  – Mark Twain

Read stories about books and libraries

“Ben wished the world was organized by the Dewey decimal system. That way you’d be able to find whatever you were looking for.”  – Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck

Learn about the famous Dewey decimal system

Play some Dewey decimal games online

The Library Book

People have been keeping written records of ideas and information for thousands of years.  Archeologists have discovered a collection of 30,000 clay tablets at an ancient site in modern Iraq. Historians know that the famous Alexandria Library in ancient Egypt had over 400,000 scrolls and that by 400 C.E., there were already 28 public libraries in the city of Rome! But it wasn’t until the 1800s that free public libraries became popular.

Read more fun facts about libraries

“The library in summer is the most wonderful thing because there you get books on any subject and read them each for only as long as they hold your interest, abandoning any that don’t, halfway or a quarter of the way through if you like, and store up all that knowledge in the happy corners of your mind for your own self and not to show off how much you know or spit it back at your teacher on a test paper.” – Polly Horvath, My One Hundred Adventures

Discover the secrets of people who love reading

“Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.” – Ray Bradbury, science fiction writer

Library Month


“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
– L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Enormous Smallness

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)…

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

e.e. cummings, American poet (1894-1962)

“In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor who gave his life fighting Nazism during World War 2

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” – Epicurus, ancient Greek philosopher 

Click HERE for Thanksgiving books for young readers. 

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” – Meister Eckhart, medieval German theologian


Burgess, Matthew. Enormous Smallness: a Story of e.e. cummings. New York: Enchanted Lion Books, 2015.

Carlstrom, Nancy White. Glory. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2001.

World Rivers Day

World Rivers Day

is celebrated every year

on the last Saturday of September! 

The founder is Mark Angelo, a river conservationist from Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.

Where on Earth are Rivers?

“I have never seen a river that I could not love. Moving water . . . has a fascinating vitality. It has power and grace and associations. It has a thousand colors and a thousand shapes, yet it follows laws so definite that the tiniest streamlet is an exact replica of a great river.” – Roderick Haig-Brown, Canadian naturalist

The St. Lawrence


‘The River,’ corrected the Rat.

‘And you really live by the river? What a jolly life!’

‘By it and with it and on it and in it,’ said the Rat. ‘It’s brother and sister to me, and aunts, and company, and food and drink, and (naturally) washing. It’s my world, and I don’t want any other. What it hasn’t got is not worth having, and what it doesn’t know is not worth knowing. Lord! the times we’ve had together!'” – Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

The Rhine

“We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.” Jacques Cousteau, French oceanographer

The Nile

“The river itself has no beginning or end. In its beginning, it is not yet the river; in the end it is no longer the river. What we call the headwaters is only a selection from among the innumerable sources which flow together to compose it. At what point in its course does the Mississippi become what the Mississippi means?” – T.S. Eliot, Introduction to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Mississippi

“Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

The Amazon

“Who hears the rippling of rivers will not utterly despair of anything.” – Henry David Thoreau, American naturalist

The Tigris and Euphrates

“Rivers know this: There is no hurry, we shall get there some day.” –  A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

The Yangtze

“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: What is soft is strong.” – Lao-Tzu, Chinese philosopher 

The Ganges

“In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time.” – Leonardo da Vinci 

Rivers in Danger

Goodman, Polly. Rivers in Danger. New York: Gareth Stevens Pub., 2012.

Mighty Rivers

Green, Jen. Mighty Rivers. Mankato, Minn.: Smart Apple Media, 2010.

Make a Splash

Kaye, Cathryn Berger.  Make a Splash! : a Kid’s Guide to Protecting our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers & Wetlands. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Pub. Inc., 2013.

10 Rivers that Shaped the World

Peters, Marilee. Ten Rivers that Shaped the World. Toronto: Annick Press, 2015.

Renewing Earth's Waters

Peterson, Christine. Renewing Earth’s Waters. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2011. 

Click HERE for picture books and novels about rivers!

“How lovely the little river is, with its dark changing wavelets! It seems to me like a living companion while I wander along the bank, and listen to its low, placid voice…” – George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss