Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins; story by Eric A. Kimmel, pictures by Trina Schart Hyman (1989)

by juno on December 3, 2010

On the third night of Hannukah I propose my favorite Hannukah tale, Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. When Hershel of Ostropol’s steps lead him, on the first night of Hannukah, to a small snowy village, he is sure he will be greeted by crisp latkes and the gleam of candles burning in menorahs in a window of each cottage. Instead he finds the village dark and the synagogue, high on the hill, darker still, haunted by Hannukah-hating (hairy, horrible, hellish and hornéd) goblins. The only way to break the spell the goblins have placed on the village is for someone to spend all eight nights of Hannukah in the temple lighting the candles in the menorah each night. On the eighth night the King of the Goblins himself must light them. Will Hershel succeed when no one else has even survived? Will he find ways to trick the array of ghastly ghostly creatures that come to wreak havoc and foil his plans? Will Hershel of Ostropol ever be seen again?

Trina Schart Hyman’s illustrations are beautifully evocative, full of snow and cold and dusk and shadow, and brightened in places by the warm glow of candlelight. Not to give anything away—don’t tell the kids—but the visual transition from the synagogue flying apart—all sticks and splinters and levitating pickles, evocative of WWII and the horrors of pogroms across Europe—to a quiet starlit hillside, all nine candles burning brightly above the snow, is deeply reassuring. Read it to the kids while the latkes are frying—as long as someone else is frying them, that is. And be ready for your house to smell like fried potatoes for days.

Do you have a favorite Hannukah story? Maybe even one from real life?

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