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Hanukkah Haiku

A Joyous Celebration in Poetry and Art

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Cover art of children's Hanukkah book Hanukkah Haiku by Harriet Ziefert illustrated by Karla Gudeon

Hanukkah Haiku by Harriet Ziefert, Illustrated by Karla Gudeon

Blue Apple Books
Hanukkah Haiku is one of the most joyous picture books about Hanukkah that I have ever seen. With a combination of poetry by Harriet Ziefert in the haiku poetic form, paintings by Karla Gudeon, and a unique design, Hanukkah Haiku is the story of one family's celebration of Hanukkah rituals and activities. The focus of the book is on the lighting of the Hanukkah candles each night and related activities. The book is designed with pages of varying widths so that each time you turn the page, another candle appears on the Menorah, the ceremonial candle holder used during Hanukkah.

Hanukkah Haiku: The Poetry in the Book

In his children's book A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms, Paul B. Janeczko writes, "A haiku contains three unrhymed lines and usually includes 17 syllables, arranged in lines of 5,7, and 5 syllables. Haikus generally describe scenes in nature." In the case of Hanukkah Haiku, each poem describes one evening during Hanukkah. For example, the haiku for the fifth night of Hanukkah is -
Five candles tonight.
Uncle gives a gift of gelt.
The coins are shiny.

I was surprised at how much information these brief poems convey about Hanukkah in conjunction with the accompanying illustrations.

Hanukkah Haiku: The Book's Illustrations

Artist Karla Gudeon uses a limited palette of mixed colors, with an emphasis on shades of orange, purple, turquoise, dark blue, and green, to good effect. The family of four seems to dance and move with joy in the illustrations as they enjoy the company of their extended family and the games, food, and rituals of Hanukkah. Richly detailed borders decorate the edges of many of the pages of varying widths, creating a dramatic wide strip of borders by the page celebrating the eighth night of Hanukkah.

At the end of the book, there is a two-page section titled Blessing the Hanukkah Candles. The book's end papers feature symbols of Hanukkah.

Hanukkah Haiku: My Recommendation

I recommend Hanukkah Haiku for 3- to 6-year-olds. I do feel, however, that the book would have benefited from the addition of an afterword with more specific details about Hanukkah and a glossary. However, the poetry and the artwork combine to provide a joyous mood of celebration, making Hanukkah Haiku a pleasure to share. (Blue Apple Books, 2008. ISBN: 9781934706336)

More Recommended Children's Books

If you are looking for a good nonfiction book about Hanukkah that is suitable for elementary school-age children (and also might be of interest to some younger and older children), I recommend Celebrate Hanukkah, one of the books in National Geographic's Holidays Around the World series. It is not very long and features lots of excellent color photographs and much more. For more of my recommendations, see Best Children's Books About Hanukkah. If you're looking for books for very young children, see Hanukkah Books for Toddlers and Young Children.

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