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Shira's Hanukkah Gift
reviewed by Karen Gall

[Note: This article was originally posted to the Jewish-music mailing list. I have appended to it my own notes from when the book originally came out. Reprinted with the reviewer's permission.]

book coverShira's Hanukkah Gift
32 pages; Ages 5 - 8
Scholastic Canada Ltd
0-439-98898-5 pbk $6.99 (Canadian)

I found the best children's Hanukkah picture/story book in Chapters yesterday! Shira's Hanukkah Gift written by Joan Betty Stuchner with beautiful illustrations by Richard Row. According to the title page, it was formerly known as "The Kugel Valley Klezmer Band". It is published by Scholastic Canada Ltd.

The setting is Canada and the story relates how a 10 year old girl fills in for the regular fiddle player in a Klezmer band at a Hanukkah party gig. The illustrations are so well done that I was sure that I could hear the klezmer music in my head as I read the story.

This is a wonderful story for sharing the passion for klezmer music with your kids. I can see how this story could be even be used in a kids' concert setting with narration and music - the way that Peter and the Wolf incorporates instruments and a story. As Shira practises on her toy fiddle she would get better and better.....You just have to read the story.


From the KlezmerShack main page, 2000:

young girl plays fiddle and dances with the band 28 May 00: Some time back, I received notice of a children's book written about a would be klezmer. Published by Scholastic Canada, it's called "The Kugel Valley Klezmer Band," (North Winds Press, 1998, ISBN: 0-590-03833-8) by Joan Betty Stuchner and illustrated by Richard Row. It is a very inspired kids story about a little girl who wants to be part of the local klezmer band and who practices and practices.... I'm looking forward to trying it out on a six-year-old for whom it may be perfect age-wise, if perhaps a stretch interest-wise. We'll see. If she's willing, a review will definitely be forthcoming.

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Contents copyright © 1999 by Tamar Adams. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Page last revised 11 June, 2007.