Monday, December 10, 2012

Short Story Spotlight: Don't Blow Out the Candles by Barbara Diamond Goldin

"Don't Blow out the Candles" by Barbara Diamond Goldin. from Highlights for Children, Dec 1998, Vol. 53 Issue 12, p18 

"Don’t Blow Out the Candles" is a Hanukkah story I found on the Highlights for Children website. It originally appeared in the magazine’s December 1998 issue. Iris is a big sister whose little brother, Benjy is still a bit too young to fully understand Hanukkah. He would much rather run around pretending to be a race car, and he even threatens to blow out the menorah candles. Iris, to whom Hanukkah is very important, and who cherishes the family’s menorah with the lion at the base, doesn’t get upset, but instead sits down with her brother to remind him of the story behind Hanukkah.

One of my challenges in the library this holiday season so far has been finding basic picture books that explain Hanukkah in simple enough terms for toddlers and preschoolers. The nice thing about this story is that it accomplishes this task, not just for a young audience, but from a youthful point of view. Iris tells the story in basic terms so that her brother can understand exactly why they have a menorah in their home. Benjy asks questions typical of a four-year-old, and Iris responds in child-like terms that still get across the correct information. Adults are mentioned in the story, but do not appear, and the focus becomes on the exchange between the two siblings as they come to a common understanding of their shared faith and traditions.

This story is available free online from Highlights, so it’s readily available to recommend to those families who want a simple account of the Hanukkah story that will be understood by every member of the family, no matter how young. It’s also a nice reminder for people like me who don’t celebrate Hanukkah, of what the celebration is all about.

Read "Don't Blow Out the Candles" on the Highlights website here


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