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The Dreidel that Wouldn't Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah

The Dreidel that Wouldn't Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah

5.0 4
by Martha Seif Simpson, Durga Yael Bernhard (Illustrator)

“This dreidel doesn’t work!” the father had cried. “What do you mean? How can a dreidel not work?” the shopkeeper asked. It was certainly the most beautiful spinning top the shopkeeper had ever seen, with magical golden letters on its sides. But it just would not spin for two spoiled children who insisted on owning it! Later, the


“This dreidel doesn’t work!” the father had cried. “What do you mean? How can a dreidel not work?” the shopkeeper asked. It was certainly the most beautiful spinning top the shopkeeper had ever seen, with magical golden letters on its sides. But it just would not spin for two spoiled children who insisted on owning it! Later, the shopkeeper decides to try it one last time: would it spin for another child, one who carried the true spirit of Hanukkah in his heart?

In this beautiful holiday story by award-winning author Martha Simpson, and brought to life by the imaginative illustrations of award-winning illustrator D. Yael Bernhard, the happiness and joy of the Hanukkah miracle will warm the heart of young and old alike with its simple message: wonders still occur for those who are ready for them. Included is a useful appendix that explains Hanukkah, and an explanation on how to play the dreidel game.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Contrary to what the title says, the dreidel it mentions will spin—it just won’t spin for the spoiled, greedy kids who are its first and second owners. Once it’s in the hands of a child “of simple means,” who understands that “the miracle of Hanukkah truly could not be bought,” the dreidel spins “for several minutes, longer than any dreidel they had ever seen.” The colorful drawings by Bernhard (Never Say a Mean Word Again) evoke Judaism’s Eastern European past, but overwriting by Simpson, a children’s librarian as well as author (What NOT to Give Your Mom on Mother’s Day), tends to swamp the otherwise nifty premise. Ages 5–up. Illustrator’s agent: Ronnie Ann Herman, Herman Agency. (Oct.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—In this gentle parable, a peddler gives a splendorous Hanukkah dreidel to the greedy owner of a toy shop with the admonishment that "…the miracle of Hanukkah cannot be bought." In turn, the shopkeeper sells the one-of-a-kind dreidel to a wealthy man at a substantial price, but the next day the man and his spoiled daughter return it, demanding their money back because the dreidel will not spin. A similar scenario ensues with a mother and son who have the same complaint, yet the shopkeeper finds that he can spin the dreidel without trouble. Confused, he puts it away, until a poor man and his son enter the shop, content simply to look at all the wonderful toys. Moved by their humble and gracious manner, the shopkeeper hands the dreidel to the boy, who is able to twirl it for several minutes, causing the message on it to transform from the traditional "A great miracle happened there" to "A small miracle happened here." Folkloric watercolor illustrations in a pale palette are appropriately soft in tone while images of the toys offering their own expressive impressions of the goings-on inject a bit of humor. A lovely choice for those wishing to circumvent the more commercial aspects of the holiday.—Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
A child's innocent appreciation for life's small wonders transforms a shopkeeper's business attitude during the busy selling season of Hanukkah. The owner of the small toyshop is immediately intrigued with the potential of a large profit if he can sell a peddler's oversized, elaborately painted dreidel. Ignoring the peddler's statement that "the miracle of Hanukkah cannot be bought," the shopkeeper places the new dreidel prominently in the window, attracting the attention of a spoiled girl who demands her father buy it. But the dreidel will not spin for the girl, so she returns it for a refund the next day. An equally arrogant boy buys the dreidel and returns it for the same reason, leaving the shopkeeper mystified. Finally, a poor child enters the shop and lovingly admires the beautiful dreidel as a symbol of Hanukkah. When he is coaxed by the shopkeeper to spin it, the dreidel spins for several minutes, magically changing its letters as it falls to indicate a poignant message. The shopkeeper decides to gift the special dreidel to this poor but respectful boy. Simpson uses familiar European folk-tale motifs, which Bernhard matches with acrylic paintings of an Old World setting; both illustrate how humility outshines greed and arrogance. Backmatter explains the real miracle of Hanukkah and the holiday's significance as well as rules for playing dreidel. A sweet original tale with a timeless, though not holiday-specific message (Picture book. 5-7)

Product Details

Wisdom Tales
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.10(w) x 10.20(h) x 0.40(d)
530L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Martha Seif Simpson is an author and children’s librarian. She has served as the Head of Children’s Services at the Stratford Library Association in Stratford, CT for the last twenty years. She is the author of five professional books for teachers and librarians. Her first children’s book What NOT to Give Your Mom on Mother's Day was released in 2013. She lives in Hamden, CT.

D. Yael Bernhard is an award-winning illustrator and author of many fiction and non-fiction books for children, including natural science titles and multicultural folktales. She is also a children’s teacher of Hebrew, Judaics, and illustration. Ms. Bernhard is also a fine artist known for her religious and family-themed pieces. She lives in Shandaken, NY.

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The Dreidel that Wouldn't Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
megHan-sHena More than 1 year ago
The Dreidel That Wouldn't Spin My sister always had a fascination with dreidels when we were younger.  We are not Jewish and we never actually saw one played with, but one day, when she was 10 and I was 14, she came across some at a little kiosk at the mall.  A few days later, we went to the library and she looked at several books, trying to find out all she could about them.  She's even asked for them for Christmas.  When I came upon this book on NetGalley, I had to pick it up, just to see - and now I plan on buying her a copy of her own. :) This is a beautiful story - filled with beautiful artwork - that is a great read for every one, no matter how old they are, and not just those who celebrate Hanukkah.  The end made me smile through the tears that fell on my cheeks.  The author's note and appendix at the end give some extra information as well as teach you how to play the game. Note: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a story of selfless giving, something we try to teach our children.  It incorporates the Jewish religion and being nice to others who have less than you do. The story is simply told about a toy shop keeper who wanted only to make money and tried to sell a Dreidel.  Each time he sold it, the buyer brought it back claiming it didn’t work.  The shop keeper couldn’t understand why that was happening. When a father and son entered the shop and asked only to look as they were too poor to be able to buy any of the toys, the shop keeper gave the Dreidel to the son. What happens after that is the whole point of the story.  If you like a teaching story and want to learn a bit about the Jewish faith, this book will provide both of those things.
Splashesintobooks1 More than 1 year ago
The dreidel in the story is a beautiful toy, sold by a peddler just before Hanukkah to a greedy toy shopkeeper. The peddler tries to remind the shopkeeper that “the miracle of Hanukkah cannot be bought” but the shopkeeper is more interested in making money.  This story tells how this beautiful toy is twice sold and returned as the purchasers claim it is broken. What happens next helps convince the shopkeeper that the peddler was correct, after all. The book is beautifully illustrated and also contains further explanations in the Author’s Note about the background to Hannukkah, as well as explaining about Dreidels and how to play with them! Thanks to the author, publishers and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this in exchange for an honest review.
SheilaDeeth More than 1 year ago
I’ve seen dreidels in stores. I know they’re kind of like little spinning tops. And I know little kids can play with them, but I’ve never known how until I read this book. Whether Hanukkah is part of your tradition or just something you’ve heard about, Martha Seif Simpson’s beautiful children's story, gorgeously illustrated by Durga Yael Bernhard, is sure to draw you and your children in. The text is simple and clear. The author even manages to include Hebrew letters, introduced with a deft and natural hand, so the parent will know the translation as soon as the child. Softly pastel illustrations feel humorously alive, filled with surprises for the reader, like small toys frowning disapproval while they wait to smile. And the story has its own sweet surprise in the lesson it teaches at the end. Great miracles and small joys (the older miracle is told in an author’s note at the end that includes instructions on playing the game), great generosity and small meanness of spirit, great hope and a wonderful message, you’ll find them all here, smoothly illustrated, sweetly told, and packaged in a gorgeous picture book for the perfect Hanukkah gift, or gift for all seasons. Disclosure: I received a free copy from the publisher and I offer my honest review – it’s beautiful!