Written by Ellie Gellman
Illustrated by Maria Mola
Young Jeremy sees a sign at the Jewish Community Center about a dreidel-making workshop in this informative, yet fiction, book written by Ellie Gellman, called Jeremy’s Dreidel. Jeremy and his friends come to the workshop with their creative ideas, as instructed by the poster. Jeremy wants to make a dreidel with Braille lettering so his blind father can enjoy the game; he comes with a lump of soft clay.
Gellman uses dialogue with the characters in the story to explain the use of a dreidel, the representation and meaning of the Hebrew letters on the dreidel, the history and celebration of Hanukkah, the slight difference between the dreidel game in Israel, Braille lettering, and blindness.
When the kids complete their hand-made dreidels, they vote on three for display in the lobby of the Community Center. When Jeremy’s unique dreidel is one of the three chosen, he is obviously sad about the decision. When asked by his friends about his disappointment, Jeremy expresses concern that if his dreidel is in a glass case, his father will not be able to actually use the dreidel, Jeremy’s purpose for making it. Jeremy’s friends solve the dilemma by suggesting a dreidel game night at the center during the Hanukkah celebration. The idea is a hit, and grown-ups and kids celebrate Hanukkah, with dreidel games, a play about Judah Maccabee, songs, and latkes and jelly donuts.
Additional bonuses for the book are included in the back: instructions for making three dreidels, instructions for playing the dreidel game, and a picture of the Braille alphabet.
Jeremy’s Dreidel is a wonderful addition to a third grade library, especially during the Hanukkah season. Children will want to read this book to gain a better understanding of diversity; two specific characteristics mentioned in this book include Jewish culture and visual-impairments.
Teachers will want to use this book in the classroom to encourage the appreciation of differences in people, also. And, this book is an excellent one to use to encourage compassion for others and a giving spirit. The main character, Jeremy, is focused throughout the story in creating something for his father that will bring joy to his dad. At the end of the story, when the climax arrives that doesn’t meet Jeremy’s goal, Jeremy’s friends step up with an idea that then extends joy and happiness to Jeremy, a kind of pay-it-forward moral ends the story.
Several helpful online sites will enhance reading comprehension and reading skills. Follow the directions for games, activities like building a menorah, recipes like potato latkes, songs, and stories at this site http://www.chabad.org/kids/article_cdo/aid/354748/jewish/Chanukah.htm and http://www.akhlah.com/jewish-holidays/hanukkah/.
Kids might also be interested to know that author Ellie Gellman, though she grew up in the United States (in Minneapolis), now resides in Jerusalem. Illustrator Maria Mola, however, grew up outside the United States, in Barcelona, Spain, but now resides within the U.S., in Philadelphia.