Sharon Jennings, Author
Gillian Newland, Illustrator
Second Story Press, Fiction, 2010
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes: Moving to a foreign country, Feeling left out, Chanukah, Christmas, Friendship
Opening: “One day, Daddy came home from work and said, “I have a big surprise. We are going to live in France.” I wasn’t so sure I liked this surprise, but I left home with Mommy and Daddy and sailed all the way across the ocean.
Synopsis: Charlotte and her family move to France. She doesn’t speak the language and is put in a lower grade. She finds that foods in her French village some times taste and smell strange. Many of her classmates are friendly, except Colette. At Christmas the village is beautifully decorated. Charlotte is Jewish and wants to celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas. She’s disappointed when her mother tells her they will celebrate Chanukah. At least, at school she can participate in the festivities of decorating the class and bringing a gift. When Charlotte discovers that Colette is poor and won’t be able to celebrate Christmas either, she sets aside her hurt feelings and comes up with a plan to help her friend and celebrate both holidays.
Why I like this story: Sharon Jennings has written a charming story based on the true story of her friend. Readers never learn the origin of Charlotte’s country, only that she is Jewish and she finds Christmas in France exciting. It is also a story about feeling left out. But, Charlotte shows a lot of compassion and helps a poor classmate enjoy Christmas with her family. I enjoyed the story, but wished there was a little more shown about Charlotte’s Jewish Chanukah tradition. Gillian Newland’s illustrations are rich and capture both the holiday spirit and the feeling of a timeless French village.
Resources: Chanukah or Hanukkah activities for children and teachers can be found at this website.