The Book (softcover and ebook editions)
Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award for Family Literature!
“A collection of short stories, all set in Chelm, the village of fools, take place around the holiday of Hanukah. We meet several interesting villagers, including Mrs. Chaipul (who is wise but makes inferior potato latkes), Rabbi Kibbitz, and Little Doodle (the village orphan), who is the hero of the most outstanding story entitled, “Out of the Woods.” It is longer and has a more cohesive plot than do the other tales. In this thirty-five page story, the Cossacks ride into Chelm in order to procure (i.e. steal) food an provisions while the Chelmites flee and hide out in the forest. The book is followed by a glossary and notes. In this anthology, the reader is introduced to many silly Chelmites and also the life of Jews in Eastern Europe at an earlier time in history. By and large the stories are light in tone and content, and all of them have been previously published in magazines such as Cricket, Jewish Daily Forward, Washington Jewish Week, and others. According to a note by the author his book is based on a CD from his storytelling tour.
— Jewish Book World, Summer 2008 (Volume 26, Number 2)
AJL Newsletter review…
A Hanukkah Present is a compilation of original short stories about Hanukkah, a collection that pays homage to classic Judaic storytellers. Binder has created characters and plots that read like authentic Jewish tales that have been passed down from generation to generation. Parents and grandparents will enjoy reading selections aloud and retelling the stories with or without the original text.
One of the best in this colorful collection, “The Challah That Ate Chelm”, about a baker’s apprentice named Muddle, is witty and charming. Muddle is the proverbial good hearted ne’er-do-well whose enormous challah destroys the baker’s oven, and nearly the entire town. Despite the damage, there is no retribution. Instead the town takes up a collection for poor Muddle to find himself a new business.
There are several stories that focus on a “Chanukah Bush” in the home of a rabbi. While the explanations are clever, this storyline might not be appropriate in more traditional homes where the notion of a Chanukah bush is not pleasing.
A Hanukkah Present is a fine example of Jewish tradition with a wink. It offers the young generation a peek into the past, with humor and a bit of schmaltz. For parents, teachers, and librarians who enjoyed The Jar of Fools: Eight Hanukkah Stories from Chelm by Eric Kimmel, A Hanukkah Present would be a nice alternative selection. A Hanukkah Present is appropriate for any Judaic collection.
— Barbara Bietz, Oak Park, CA in the Feb/March 2008 issue of the AJL Newsletter
The CD is a Storytelling World Honor Winner.
The CD has received the following reviews and mentions:
“Lethal Latkes,” by the way, is not a murder mystery. It concerns some awful-tasting latkes (potato pancakes) and what you might call another Hanukkah miracle: love.”
— New York Times
“Listeners of all cultural backgrounds will be entertained by these tales.”
— School Library Journal
“An entertaining CD that, like its title, will make a great Hanukkah present for Jewish children and their families.”
— AJL Newsletter
Many of the stories in A Chanukah Present are stories within a story: A Cold Day in Chelm. Everything freezes. It’s so cold, people initially won’t get out of bed or leave the house. Then the community finds warmth in each other.
“The villagers come together,” Binder says. “The warmth of their singing warms the whole world.” Binder says he likes stories that appeal to all ages and faiths, and “have a good heart.”
—Providence Journal – Read the whole review