All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah Book Poster Image
Little sister finds way to contribute in warm holiday story.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lots of information on Hanukkah, the lighting of the candles, the traditional foods eaten, the meaning of the rituals. Back matter includes a glossary (including definitions of latke, menorah, schmaltz, shamash), notes on original author Sydney Taylor and the diverse neighborhood and history of the Lower East Side, the origin of Hanukkah, a note from the illustrator, and a list of Taylor's five All-of-a-Kind chapter books. 

Positive Messages

Implied message that family is important, and that traditional rituals handed down through generations help people of faith remember and reflect upon events recounted in their religious scriptures. Also, sometimes little kids are kept from helping when they're too young to handle tools safely and avoid being burned or cut. Giving little kids a significant task to do can make them feel valuable and included.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mama is kind and protective. Papa is loving and knows what to say to draw Gertie out and help her feel better and more included. Gertie wants to assist and gets mad when she's told she's not allowed to. Her sisters help Mama and are kind and protective of Gertie. 

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that  Emily Jenkins' All-of-a Kind Family Hanukkah is a picture book adaptation of the classic book of the same name by Sydney Taylor, which introduced this Jewish family of five sisters to readers in 1951. Taylor published a total of five books in the series, the last of which was published in 1978. Warmly illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky, it shows a loving family preparing the family feast for the first night on Hanukkah in their ten​​ement apartment on New York City's Lower East Side in 1912. 

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What's the story?

Four-year-old baby sister Gertie is dying to help her mother and four sisters cook the food for their ALL-OF-A-KIND FAMILY HANUKKAH on the first night of the eight-day celebration in 1912. "All-of-a-Kind" is how Papa describes his children, who are all daughters. But while the older girls are allowed to peel and grate potatoes, chop onions, and fry the latkes in schmaltz, Mama won't let Gertie do those things because she's too young to use a peeler, grater, knife, or frying pan safely. Gertie is frustrated, throws a tantrum, and gets sent ot her room. But eventually Papa goes in and consoles her with some Gingersnaps and then gives her a special task: to light the first candle in the menorah.

Is it any good?

This cozy holiday tale focuses on one family's religious and cultural tradition but has broad appeal as a story of a sibling feeling left out and then finally valued. All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah moves along at a brisk pace, amplified by engaging art that has an inviting old-fashioned feel and is framed in different perspectives -- from panoramic views of the busy, crowded tenement apartment to intimate closeups of parent and child.

Helpful, informative back matter includes a glossary, notes on original author Sydney Taylor and the diverse neighborhood and history of the Lower East Side, an explanation of Hanukkah's biblical origin, a note from the illustrator, and a list of the five All-of-a-Kind chapter books by Sydney Taylor. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the foods served in All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah. Have you ever eaten latkes? What holiday celebrations are there in your home? What special foods are served? Do you help make the food? 

  • Have you ever tried to help cook and been shooed away because you're too young and the grown-ups don't want you to get hurt? What kind of dangers are there in a kitchen? 

  • This story is about a specific family long ago in 1912, but it touches on things any family might go through today. What's different and what's similar? What is it about the art that gives she story an old-fashioned feel? 

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