Mendel’s Hanukkah Mess-Up

  • Review
By – December 12, 2022

Mendel is always mess­ing up. He uses too many onions in his latkes, mis­takes sparklers for can­dles in his meno­rah, and acci­den­tal­ly leaves a tray of jel­ly donuts on the rabbi’s chair. But when the dri­ver of the Mitz­vah Mobile is sick, the rab­bi con­fi­dent­ly gives Mendel the job. Dri­ving through town blar­ing Hanukkah music, pass­ing out choco­late gelt, play­ing drei­del, and spread­ing the word about the rabbi’s Hanukkah par­ty, Mendel is doing a great job … until he crash­es the Mitz­vah Mobile into a bridge. But when the tele­vi­sion news team arrives on the scene, Mendel com­pos­es him­self — stand­ing tall like the shamash — and teach­es every­one the sto­ry of Hanukkah. Mirac­u­lous­ly, despite the crash, the meno­rah on top of the Mitz­vah Mobile is still burn­ing bright. Back at the syn­a­gogue Hanukkah par­ty, the rab­bi gives Mendel the hon­or of light­ing the giant meno­rah in front of city hall.

The illus­tra­tions, though soft­ly col­ored and appeal­ing, depict a Jew­ish neigh­bor­hood that lacks dimen­sion and diver­si­ty. That being said, the sto­ry expos­es read­ers who do not live in urban areas with robust Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties to the con­cept of a Mitz­vah Mobile and a large meno­rah light­ing at city hall. It also includes a bite-sized his­to­ry of Hanukkah, instruc­tions for play­ing drei­del, the lyrics to Oh, Hanukkah,” and a latke recipe.

Rachel Kamin has been a syn­a­gogue librar­i­an and Jew­ish edu­ca­tor for over twen­ty-five years and has worked at North Sub­ur­ban Syn­a­gogue Beth El in High­land Park, IL since 2008, cur­rent­ly serv­ing as the Direc­tor of Life­long Learn­ing. A past chair of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Award Com­mit­tee and past edi­tor of Book Reviews for Chil­dren & Teens for the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries News & Reviews, her arti­cles and book reviews appear in numer­ous pub­li­ca­tions. She has been a mem­ber of the Amer­i­can Library Association’s Sophie Brody Book Award Com­mit­tee since 2021.

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