Hanukkah with Mazel, by Joel Edward Stein


In the outskirts of Grodno in what is now Belarus, a poor artist named Misha goes into his ramshackle barn and discovers a starving stray cat curled up next to his milk cow. Soon Misha and the cat, which he dubs Mazel (Hebrew for luck), are fast friends, and together they celebrate Hanukkah. There are just enough potatoes for a plate of latkes (“Mazel gave a ‘meow’ of approval and licked her whiskers”) but no candles for grandfather’s elaborate silver menorah, so Misha paints a picture of one, adding a candle to the image for each night. This happy but meager existence takes an unexpected turn when an art-loving peddler appears at Misha’s door. Vavouri’s drawings, with their rough-hewn textures and Fiddler on the Roof aesthetic, are the real draw in newcomer Stein’s otherwise slight story. Misha and Mazel’s wiry bodies, bright eyes, and optimistic spirit mark them as instant soul mates. Ages 3–8. Paperback, 32 pages, 9781467781763

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