Magic Menorah: A Modern Chanukah Tale

Magic Menorah: A Modern Chanukah Tale

by Jane Breskin Zalben, Donna Diamond

Stanley dreads Chanukah.

He hates having to clean the house, grate mounds of potatoes, and deal with a bunch of noisy, nosy, pushy relatives. He'd much rather live like a rock star and do whatever he wants whenever he wants to do it.

Stanley gets his wish when he uncovers a tarnished, antique menorah, begins to rub the schmutz off of it, and discovers a


Stanley dreads Chanukah.

He hates having to clean the house, grate mounds of potatoes, and deal with a bunch of noisy, nosy, pushy relatives. He'd much rather live like a rock star and do whatever he wants whenever he wants to do it.

Stanley gets his wish when he uncovers a tarnished, antique menorah, begins to rub the schmutz off of it, and discovers a genie named Fishel.

Fishel, who looks more like a haggard old man than any genie Stanley ever heard of, grants him three wishes. Finally! Stanley will get the fame and fortune he's always wanted.

But why does Fishel insist on taking Stanley back in time to grant a wish? What do people who lived in the 1930s have to do with Stanley now?

In this heartwarming holiday story, Jane Breskin Zalben shows us the strength of family and what being happy is really all about.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Zalben (Pearl's Eight Days of Chanukah) serves up a middling holiday story, packaged in chapter-book format with atmospheric line drawings. Stanley rubs a long-neglected menorah to a nice shine and releases Fishel the genie, who grants Stanley three wishes. What ensues teaches Stanley the unsurprising lesson that he already has everything he needs for happiness. To borrow from Fishel's sitcom Yiddish ("So? Nu already? What's it going to be?"), the major ingredient here is schmaltz. Ages 7-10. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
If you can get through the first several pages of this story about a spoiled kid who's not looking forward to another Chanukah with his disgusting family but nevertheless sits peeling and grating so many potatoes "that his knuckles were almost raw," perhaps you can also get through the old-country genie who emerges from the grimy old menorah Stanley idly begins to polish (a natural thing for such a kid to do, right?). Then maybe you can hope you understand, without turning to the glossary, all the Yiddish the raggedy character intersperses into his wise-cracking stand-up comedy routine and find out about the three wishes, the riddles to be solved, and the rewards to be realized. If you get that far, using the genie's schmatteh of an overcoat for your magic carpet, you can have a glimpse of the shtetl Grampa Abe and the schmutzy menorah hailed from and gain understanding of why he's always so sad on Chanukah. And you can witness the miracle of Spoiled Stanley morphing into Grateful Stanley, accompanied by his new puppy, Fame. 'Tis a tale of miracles and magic, with nary a Maccabee to be seen, and actually becomes somewhat endearing by the last page. Nice black and white drawings are sprinkled throughout the chapters. 2001, Simon & Schuster, $15.00. Ages 7 to 10. Reviewer: Judy Chernak
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-Stanley Green, 12, doesn't look forward to Chanukah. Every year his house is overrun with annoying relatives, and his grandfather, who normally tells the best stories, gets quiet and sad. This year turns out to be different, though. Stanley is sent to the attic to get a package for his grandfather. In it, he finds a tarnished old menorah. As the boy cleans it up, a shabby little old man appears, demands a nosh, and offers three wishes if Stanley can answer three riddles. Stanley doesn't get the right answers, but Fishel lets him wish anyway. Of course, each wish turns out far differently than Stanley anticipates. He learns that Fame and Fortune come in many forms, and realizes that Happiness has been his all along. He also learns something about his family history and why his grandfather is so sad at Chanukah. This short, simple chapter book is filled with details about traditions of the holiday. Hebrew and Yiddish words are sprinkled liberally throughout, with a glossary at the end. The realistic illustrations, vignettes with text wrapped around them, nicely support the story. An entertaining read-aloud that could easily be adapted as a play or reader's theater script.-M. A. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Stanley, who has everything, is not looking forward to Chanukah. Too many noisy relatives, cousins who make a mess, and his usually happy Grandpa Abe is always sad on the holiday. Mother sends Stanley to the attic to get a box for Grandpa and the magic begins. The box contains a dusty old menorah and when Stanley polishes it, a genie, in the person of Mr. Fishel, appears. Fishel, an ancient man in a shabby overcoat and felt hat tastes mother's chicken soup and the other holiday dishes and when his belly is full, asks Stanley, "What's it going to be?" With that, Stanley gets the usual three wishes. His wish for fame gets him a puppy named Fame; his wish for fortune produces stacks of golden potato pancakes and a trip back in time to a poor village in Europe. Here, Stanley shares the food and learns why Grandpa Abe is sad at Chanukah. Stanley's last wish, to be with his whole family, ends things, as he understands now that he is indeed a fortunate boy. Filled with bits of Jewish lore and traditional humor this gentle tale will amuse readers as it extols the virtues of generosity, love, and family relationships. Diamond's small drawings add drama. A depiction of a single shoe and sock at the head of a page, for example, illustrates a boy's poverty and its historical context. This modern Aladdin story with its glossary of Yiddish words and pronunciations is a fine addition to the holiday bookshelf. (Fiction. 7-10)

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.54(w) x 7.85(h) x 0.52(d)
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: The Box in the Attic

Once upon a time, in a small village not too far from a large shopping mall, there lived a boy named Stanley Green. He had everything in the world a child could ever want or need. And so, since the first night of Chanukah was beginning at sunset that evening, Stanley's parents wondered what more they could possibly give him.

As usual, Stanley's relatives were coming. The house always got hot, noisy, and stuffy. Great-Aunt Sophie would give mushy, wet kisses and would pinch his cheeks. Uncle Max would squash him in a bear hug and breathe hot onion breath on his face. When his younger cousins Nathan, Ernie, and Emma came over, they always fought and yelled, and made a mess of all his things. That meant a lot of picking up and cleaning up after them. And Grandpa Abe, who always told the best stories the rest of the year, became quiet and sad during Chanukah. Stanley just wasn't looking forward to the holiday season.

Stanley's mother, Mrs. Green, hummed to herself as she covered the dining-room table with Grandma's lace tablecloth and linen napkins. Then she began to prepare for the Chanukah meal.

The kitchen buzzed with the sound of mixing and grating. Stanley peeled potato after potato. He grated so many potatoes that his knuckles were almost as raw as the potatoes he had peeled. His mother paused from chopping onions. She opened the kitchen window a bit and breathed in the cool night air. "Ah, those onions are sharp," she said, wiping her eyes as she added the onions to the latke batter. It was heaped high as a mountain in a ceramic bowl. "My tears could fill this bowl," she laughed.

As Stanley peeled and grated more potatoes, andapplesauce bubbled in a big pot on the stove, his mother suddenly hit her forehead with the back of her hand. "Oh, no! I forgot to buy cinnamon for the applesauce! Stanley, I need you to help out while I run to the corner store." She continued as she put on her coat and gloves. "You know the large trunk in the attic? Inside is an old box covered with lots of foreign stamps. Grandpa Abe asked us to get it out for him this Chanukah. It would be a great help to me if you would do that. The box is from your Great-Uncle Velvel."

"Who's Uncle Velvel?" Stanley asked.

"Velvel was Grandpa and Great-Aunt Sophie's brother -- back in the old country."

"Which old country?"

"Romania," his mother answered.

"Uh-oh." Stanley thought of werewolves and vampires, and wondered if the box contained fangs, wolfsbane, or soil from the Transylvanian homeland.

Stanley's mother gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "I'll be back soon. Dad should be home in about an hour. He's leaving work early tonight." And with those words she disappeared into snowflakes swirling outside.

Text copyright © 2001 by Jane Breskin Zalben

Meet the Author

Jane Breskin Zalben has written many books for young readers including Pearl's Eight Days of Chanukah, Pearl Plants a Tree, Pearl's Marigolds for Grandpa, Unfinished Dreams, and a family cookbook, To Every Season. She lives on Long Island, New York.

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