Hanukkah at Valley Forge
Illustrated by Greg Harlin
Dutton Children’s Books, Penguin Young Readers Group, 2006
From the dust jacket: “On a cold December night during the height of the Revolutionary War, General George Washington surveys his weary troops at Valley Forge. Unexpectedly, he spies a soldier lighting a candle. Curious, he asks the soldier what he is doing. The soldier explains that he is celebrating the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. He goes on to relate a miraculous story—how long ago a ragtag army of Jewish soldiers defeated a much larger force, a tale that provides just the kind of inspiration General Washington needs. Stephen’s Krensky’s fictionalized version of a poignant historical anecdote is brought vividly to life in Greg Harlin’s brilliant watercolor illustrations.”
This wasn’t the first book I read this year about Hanukkah, but I wish it had been. It tells the story of the Festival of Lights and why the Jewish people celebrate it each year. The comparison is made between the Maccabees and their fight against their Greek overlords and the newly formed United States’ battle with England. The illustrations are lovely, with the coldness of Valley Forge easily felt through the blue-toned watercolors. The text is small-medium and printed on dark backgrounds so reading would be harder for early readers. The book is quiet and thoughtful, full of meaning and history. A very good read-aloud story for those unfamiliar with Hanukkah and those who love stories of George Washington and the American Revolution.