This picture book follows marine ecologist David Ginsburg to the McMurdo research station in Antarctica to study sea urchins during Hanukkah. Since there is no night in the Antarctic summer, Ginsburg wonders, “How can you light a menorah when the sun is still shining?” Circling underwater, he hits upon an idea, gently placing sea urchins and sea stars in the shape of a menorah on the sea floor. The vibrant color photography and surprising thematic juxtaposition—readers will learn as much about urchins as about the holiday—makes this a memorable selection, even for readers who don't celebrate Hanukkah. Ages 5–9. (Sept.)\
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
David Goldberg, a marine biologist, arrives at McMurdo Station in Antarctica for five months of studying underwater creatures. When he prepares to dive on the first night of Hanukkah, he wonders how he can possibly celebrate when it is so cold and, because it is summer there, there is no dark night. He and his diving buddy Rob dress in their diving gear and descend to where it is so dark they need flashlights. As he studies the sea urchins, David recalls Hanukkah back home. He then has an "amazing idea." He makes eight stacks of urchins for the eight nights of Hanukkah that the oil burned, and a ninth for the shamash helper candle. He puts a starfish on top of each and photographs the underwater menorah. Back on land, he lights a menorah from home to share the holiday, his way of commemorating the holiday and the survival of the Jewish people. Full page color photographs taken, in the main, in the underwater darkness, display the sea creatures and divers attractively with obvious concern for the esthetic as well as the informative qualities. Readers may be inspired to learn more about both the Station and the ongoing research there. There is added information on both. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 2–5—Heller chronicles the experiences of David Ginsburg, a marine biologist who spent five months at McMurdo Station in Antarctica studying underwater wildlife. He was there during Hanukkah, and was inspired to celebrate the holiday by lining up sea urchins and sea stars on the ocean floor in the shape of the traditional Hanukkah candleholder and photographing his impromptu temporary menorah. The photos don't always seem to show what the text describes, and many are of mere snapshot quality, but this is forgivable considering the limited selection of shots that must have been available showing this unique event. The text is pedestrian but serviceable. Basic familiarity with Hanukkah is assumed. Useful endnotes provide additional information on sea urchins, McMurdo, Ginsburg, and the author. This unusual combination of Antarctic exploration and Judaism's best-known holiday is sure to intrigue readers. Perhaps it will even inspire them to create their own found-object art.—Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL
David Ginsburg, a marine biologist, gets ready to dive at McMurdo Station on the first night of Hanukkah and wonders how to celebrate at the height of the Antarctic summer: "Can you light a menorah when the sun is still shining?" In the undersea darkness, David has an idea and arranges a "menorah" of red, orange, white and pink sea urchins and sea stars on a flat shelf, photographing his creation. Back at the station, David and his research team light a traditional menorah to observe the holiday in their unique setting. Clear, colorful photographs accompany the direct narrative that incorporates research with David's special way of remembering the significance of Hanukkah by paralleling the survival of the sea urchins with the Jewish people's own strength and determination. (Informational picture book. 5-8)
Read an Excerpt
Menorah Under the Sea
By Esther Susan Heller
Kar-Ben Publishing Copyright © 2009 Esther Susan Heller
All rights reserved.
David Ginsburg boarded an airplane in Los Angeles and flew for 14 hours. He flew past all the lands where it was winter and all the countries where it was summer. When the plane finally landed in Christchurch, New Zealand, he switched to a U.S. Air Force cargo plane that took him to McMurdo Station in Antarctica down at the bottom of the world.
Antarctica is a dangerous place, where only trained researchers live for a few months at a time. Cruise ships with adventurous tourists occasionally drop anchor a tone of the islands.
David is a marine biologist. He would live at McMurdo for five months to study the underwater animals that live in the frigid ocean.
It was the first night of Hanukkah when David got ready to dive. "Could Hanukkah come to Antarctica?" he wondered. It was summer, but so cold that the ice on the ground hadn't melted. During summer there is no night. How can you light a menorah when the sun is still shining?
He pulled on his dry suit, a red rubber outfit that stretched from his toes to his neck. It felt like he was stepping into a garbage bag, but it kept him warmand dry in the freezing water. His diving buddy, Rob, zipped the suit closed, and David did the same for Rob.
They put on their dry gloves, hoods, and facemasks. They strapped air tanks on their backs and adjusted their breathing devices. With battery-operated flashlights and underwater cameras, they were ready to go.
Excerpted from Menorah Under the Sea by Esther Susan Heller. Copyright © 2009 Esther Susan Heller. Excerpted by permission of Kar-Ben Publishing.
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