The traditional family Hanukkah celebration is here adjusted to include an autistic boy's interpretation.
Jacob's brother, Nathan, can be quite vexing, especially when he repeats himself constantly. Jacob's mother has explained that Nathan's "mind is wired differently" and that he "just looks at things in his own way." On the first two nights of Hanukkah, Jacob is excited to welcome new neighbors Steven and parents to their candle-lighting ceremony. He quickly regrets it when, to his acute embarrassment, Nathan blows out the candles despite being told they are not like birthday ones. Playing dreidel also proves to be less than enjoyable when Nathan fixates on the spinning and ignores the rest of the game. Yet when confronted by Steven—"your brother is weird" —Jacob counters with the defiant response that Nathan's autistic (not, as Steven mishears, "artistic") behavior helps his family see the world just a bit differently. Softly outlined illustrations offer snapshot views of family gatherings while also capturing emotional expressions of surprise, chagrin and enjoyment, as reflected in the arc of the story line. A creative final scene encompasses both the traditional menorah lighting as well as a birthdaylike candle celebration atop a tray of jelly doughnuts.
This inclusive holiday story offers a realistic perspective on one family's ability to embrace an autistic individual with respect and compassion. (author's note)(Picture book. 6-8)
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Nathan Blows Out the Hanukkah Candles
By Tami Lehman-Wilzig, Nicole Katzman, Jeremy Tugeau
Kar-Ben PublishingCopyright © 2011 Tami Lehman-Wilzig with Nicole Katzman
All rights reserved.
"Is it Hanukkah? Is it Hanukkah?"
All my big brother does is say the same thing over and over again.
"Is it Hanukkah? Is it Hanukkah?" he keeps repeating. As usual, Nathan is lost in his own world. Then he announces, "Tonight is Hanukkah, tonight is Hanukkah."
"I know, I know," I answer.
Mom gives me a look.
"Ohh-kay ... Nathan's mind is wired differently."
"I'm glad you understand that, Jacob."
"Hanukkah has eight days. Hanukkah has eight days."
I think I'm going to burst.
"And the United States has fifty states," continues Nathan. "Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas—"
Mom cuts in. "I have a good idea, Nathan. Turn on your computer and see if you can find a blank map of the United States where you can put in the state names."
Nathan goes to his room.
Mom asks me, "Would you like to help set up the Hanukkah menorah?"
"Sure," I answer. "I like pretending I'm Judah Maccabee, lighting the menorah in the Temple."
"Tonight's the first night of Hanukkah, so only one candle," Mom says. "Plus the shamash, the helper candle, for lighting it."
I'm Judah Maccabee, winning the war against King Antiochus! We recapture our holy Temple! There's a small jug of oil to light the menorah. It's enough for one day but—a miracle!—the oil lasts eight days.
Tonight I'm going to pray for a new miracle. That Nathan stops repeating himself.
I put the menorah on the table next to the window. A big truck pulls in next door, with a car behind it. A new family is moving in. Yes! It looks like there's a boy my age. I wonder if he plays basketball.
"Mom!" I yell. "I'll be outside shooting hoops."
I bounce the ball really hard. It works. My new neighbor walks over.
"Can I play?" he asks. "My name's Steven. What's yours?"
Excerpted from Nathan Blows Out the Hanukkah Candles by Tami Lehman-Wilzig, Nicole Katzman, Jeremy Tugeau. Copyright © 2011 Tami Lehman-Wilzig with Nicole Katzman. Excerpted by permission of Kar-Ben Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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