Doug and his kid thoroughly enjoyed this book but I genuinely did not expect to fall in love with it as hard as I did.
It’s a cold, snowy evening when Hershel of Ostropol walks into a village where he was expecting a warm reception on the first night of Hanukkah, with lights, latkes and merriment. Instead, he’s greeted by darkness and silence, tho the villagers come out readily enough to meet him. Turns out that goblins have been plaguing the town, and have been getting extra feisty with the villagers over what should be a festive season. The monsters have been blowing out candles, breaking dreidels and generally making everyone’s lives miserable. The only way to get rid of them is for someone to spend eight nights in the old synagogue on the hill, lighting the Hanukkah candles on each night. On the very last evening, the King Of Goblins must light the candles himself: only then will the goblin’s power over the village be broken.
Hershel is brave, quick-witted and resourceful, so he agrees to give it a go. The villagers provision him with food and candles but honestly don’t expect to see him ever again. Hershel himself, ofc, has every intention of outwitting the goblins and making it out, not only alive but with the freedom of the village secured. But as the nights pass and the goblins get progressively more frightening, will Hershel be able to achieve any of these aims?
This is a very well-loved kid’s book, and a brilliant metaphor for resistance in the face of oppression, so no prizes for guessing that there’s a happy ending. My only complaint with the story itself was the elision of several nights of Hershel outwitting the various goblins, but I’m greedy and always love more of a good thing. And let there be no doubt: Hershel And The Hanukkah Goblins is a Very Good Thing. As strong and terrifying as the goblins are, Hershel’s smarts and perhaps more importantly his courage never fail him. Eric A Kimmel does an amazing job of relaying the growing dread that culminates in the abject terror that the King of Goblins instils. My heart absolutely quavered with Hershel’s as he sought to break the goblins’ hold over the village.
Trina Schart Hyman’s magnificent illustrations serve very much to set the tone. I love how the afterword in this 2022 Gift Edition includes the author and illustrator both singing praises of the other’s generosity and intelligence in collaborating on this work. Together, they’ve created a truly wonderful story of preserving the light against the darkness, and how raw strength is nothing against the faith of a brave heart and a quick mind. Highly recommended, for Hanukkah or any time of year, and most definitely for everyone.
Hershel And The Hanukkah Goblins by Eric A. Kimmel & Trina Schart Hyman was published October 4 2022 by Holiday House and is available from all good booksellers, including