A camel, a train mishap and the holiday of Hanukkah bring together a Bedouin and a Jew in acts of kindness and camaraderie.
Eager to celebrate with friends in Jaffa, Ari balances an armload of sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), dreidels, menorah, bottle of oil and the bag of Turkish coins as he rushes to the train he will drive to Jerusalem. On his way are several children playacting the story of the holiday, providing a tiny summary for readers, a device that is repeated throughout. Finally aboard and daydreaming a bit, Ari derails the caboose of his train when forced to make a sudden stop to avoid a camel sitting on the tracks. Rescue comes with the stubborn camel's owner, a Bedouin named Kalil ("friend" in Arabic), who sends for help while Ari graciously accepts Kalil's hospitality. "Your camel may be stubborn, but I was not careful." The observance of the first night of Hanukkah, coincidentally on the site of Modi'in, the ancient home of the Maccabees, is shared; Ari lights candles, sings blessings and teaches Kalil to play dreidel, and together they enjoy coffee with the sufganiyot. The late-19th-century atmosphere of the story is conveyed with gentle cartoons that move horizontally with the flow of a traveling train.
This addition to the series moves beyond the holiday with its implied message of friendship, cooperation and mutual respect for separate cultures sharing one homeland. (glossary, author's note)(Picture book. 5-7)
Cohen and Kober return with another holiday happening for Engineer Ari. The train driver is hurrying home by train to celebrate Hanukkah when he is forced to stop abruptly for a pesky camel sitting on the tracks. The camel’s owner, Kalil, a Bedouin, assists Ari and invites him to his tent. As it grows dark, the two new friends begin the celebration of Hanukkah together. The interfaith message is not subtle, but it is an imaginative take on the familiar holiday. Train-loving children will especially appreciate Engineer Ari. Ages 5�9. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
It's Hanukkah and Engineer Ari is off in his train to celebrate the holiday with his friends, Jessie and Nathaniel. He is carrying traditional sufganiyot (jelly donuts), dreidels, and Turkish coins. His Hannukiah (the correct name for the holiday candelabra) travels with him, too. Along the way, he passes children playing Maccabees and Syrians which leads to a streamlined retelling of the Hanukkah story. Interestingly, the way the story is phrased implies that there were not one but two Hanukkah miracles, the second being the defeat of the greater Syrian army by the small band of Jewish guerilla fighters. Little girls near the tracks play dreidel, but since the story takes place in Jerusalem, the letters on the spinning toy represent, "A miracle happened here," rather than the Diaspora translation of, "A miracle happened there." As Ari takes off on his journey, his train is derailed by a wayward camel and his presents are spilled from the train. A friendly Bedouin shepherd helps to retrieve the gifts and offers Ari traditional hospitality as they share Ari's celebration on the first night of the holiday. By the time Jessie and Ari arrive from Jaffa to help right the train, Ari has solidified a new friendship and discovered that he is celebrating the holiday on the actual site of the Maccabees' uprising. There's a lot of good historical information packed into this charming book, and the synopsized story of the origin of the holiday is perfectly woven into the story of new friends, old traditions, all illustrated with cheery and colorful pictures children will love. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—As Engineer Ari walks through Jerusalem with his arms full of packages for Hanukkah, he meets two boys reenacting the tale of brave Judah Maccabee and two girls playing the dreidel game. Later, when his train breaks down, Ari is aided by a Bedouin shepherd who puts him back on the right track. As with the earlier Engineer Ari books, this one combines simple charm with a good-hearted message, all wrapped up in a bit of interesting history about the first steam engine to travel between Jaffa and Jerusalem in 1892. Of particular note is that the dreidel displays a different set of letters than those most children are familiar with, because in Israel the great miracle of Hanukkah happened "here," not "there." Combining cheerful illustrations, a friendly text, appealing characters, and a bright red train, this holiday book is sure to please.—Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library