The Extra­or­di­nary Drei­del: A Hanukkah Sto­ry from Israel

  • Review
By – December 4, 2023

Devo­rah Omer was a clas­sic Israeli chil­dren’s author who wrote more than one hun­dred books and was beloved by par­ents, teach­ers, and chil­dren. Many of her books have been trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish. The Extra­or­di­nary Drei­del is one such book — and it car­ries on Omer’s lega­cy as a writer of enjoy­able children’s stories.

When Gil and Nurit receive an extra-large drei­del with a secret com­part­ment for Hanukkah, they won­der about the var­i­ous ways in which they can use it. Is it a good place to hide their pre­cious trea­sures? Gil makes plans to bring the drei­del to school and run a con­test to see which of his class­mates has the best idea; but when the time comes to present the drei­del, it is nowhere to be found. After a thor­ough search, the chil­dren find it in the back of the clos­et, stashed behind coats, and they dis­cov­er that Mitzi the cat has had the best idea of all. She’s found the per­fect spot in which to nest and deliv­er her four new kit­tens. In hon­or of the cozy space, the kit­tens are named Nun, Gimel, Hay, and Peh. The fourth name may sound unusu­al to Amer­i­can ears. Drei­dels in Israel use the let­ter peh rather than shin because the word poh, mean­ing here,” indi­cates that the Hanukkah sto­ry occurred in the Land of Israel.

Hid­den inside this adorable sto­ry of a spe­cial hid­ing place are addi­tion­al nuggets of sur­prise. The names of the pro­tag­o­nists, Gil and Nurit, trans­late to joy” and can­dle­light” — per­fect choic­es for a sto­ry about Hanukkah.

The book’s live­ly art is full of bright col­ors and depicts cheer­ful char­ac­ters from var­i­ous back­grounds, enhanc­ing the sto­ry. The Extra­or­di­nary Drei­del is a won­der­ful addi­tion to any­one’s hol­i­day bookshelf.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

Discussion Questions