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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)
"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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Posted November 21, 2011
Siblings ¿ at times we love them; at times we can¿t stand them. Jacob¿s older brother, Nathan, often irritated him. Nathan constantly repeated words: ¿Is it Hanukkah? Is it Hanukkah?¿ ¿Tonight is Hanukkah.¿ ¿Tonight is Hanukkah.¿ Nathan¿s actions were confusing. And Nathan¿s incessant chatter caused other children to ridicule him, embarrassing Jacob. Jacob¿s mother tried to explain to him that Nathan¿s brain was ¿wired differently¿ but as much as Jacob tried to understand, it was difficult. And on the first night of Hanukkah, it was very difficult to understand. The first candle of Hanukkah was to be lit and Nathan, Jacob and their parents gathered around the menorah. Jacob and Nathan's father used the shamash to light the candle, then the blessings and ¿Ma/oz Tzur¿ were sung. They were just about to eat the fresh jelly donuts when Nathan blew out the candle! It was supposed to remain lit throughout the full eight nights of Hanukkah. But Nathan didn¿t understand that. He saw a lit candle and thought it was a birthday candle and so he blew it out. Nathan was autistic and didn¿t understand the way his younger brother and parents understood. The next day, a new family moved in next door and that evening, as Jacob and his family were about to light the second candle of Hanukkah, the doorbell rang. It was their new neighbours. Jacob¿s mom invited them to join in the Hanukkah celebrations and lighting of the second candle. Jacob was worried. Would Nathan blow out the candle again? Quill says: Lessons come in many guises and this charming book gently and lovingly introduces readers and their parents to autism and the family issues it can raise.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 4, 2011
Jacob's older brother, Nathan, was so annoying it was pathetic. He just stood in front of the coffee table repeating himself until Jacob could hardly stand it. "Is it Hanukkah? Is it Hanukkah?" Their mother said his brain was "wired differently" and hoped that Jacob would be able to understand, but it was still difficult. It wasn't long before Nathan, who had a huge smile on his face, was bouncing up the stairs yelling something about how Hanukkah had eight days, there were fifty states, and then he started naming them. Jacob's Mom asked if he'd like to set up the menorah and soon he was pretending to be Judah Maccabee "winning the war against King Antiochus." That was lots of fun, but what Jacob was really going to do was to pray that Nathan would change stop repeating himself. Miracles do happen don't they?
That night they would light the first candle of Hanukkah with the "shamash, the helper candle," but that afternoon there was something else that was as exciting. A new boy named Steven moved in next door. They played together until Jacob's Dad came home with their Hanukkah desert, a box of jelly doughnuts. The family gathered around the menorah and the first candle was lit. After the blessings were said and everyone sang "ma'oz Tzur" Nathan leaned forward, took a deep breath and BLEW out the candles! Jacob was very angry, but Mom and Dad gently put their hands on Nathan's shoulders while Dad said, "Hanukkah candles are not like birthday candles. We don't blow them out." The next night the when Steven and his family came over Jacob just knew there was going to be trouble when his Mom invited them to stay and light the menorah. Would Nathan blow out the candles again? Would Steven still want to be his friend when he found out that Nathan was autistic?
This is a novel twist on how an autistic boy, Nathan, teaches everyone how to celebrate Hanukkah. For Jacob, his younger brother, there are many difficult issues to face with an autistic sibling. He is annoyed with many of Nathan's behaviors, especially when they interfere with Hanukkah, a very special celebration in Jacob's mind. One of the other problems is when he has to face the judgment of a new friend who is unfamiliar and tentative when he first encounters Nathan's unusual behavior. I liked the way the Jacob's parents patiently and kindly dealt with the situation. The resolution of the story was heartwarming and will give a smile to the reader's face. This is not only a tale about a special holiday celebration, Hanukkah, but also a loving story about a special boy named Nathan, a boy who showed his brother what the celebration was really all about.
This book courtesy of the publisher.
Posted November 12, 2014
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