Thursday, 15 December 2022
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Hanukkah begins on Sunday evening and I can’t wait! My work for the semester is over. It’s time to start planning for our favorite holiday foods, latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (doughnuts).

The miracle we celebrate on Hanukkah has to do with oil. So whether you like your treats sweet or savory, it’s time to get out those fryers and put on those aprons.

One of my favorite recent Hanukkah books is Leslie Kimmelman’s The Eight Knights of Hanukkah. In this picture book, eight brave young knights go searching for the dragon who is trying to ruin their community’s Hanukkah celebration. As long as they’re on a quest, they might as well do some good deeds!

This book is packed with fun and action. How much action? I counted eighty-six verbs!

To be fair, I listed out the verbs in The Eight Knights of Hanukkah for a reason. I wanted to make a ten-verb list, borrowed from Leslie’s book, to write a Hanukkah poem.

And here is that poem. The ten verbs I selected from Leslie’s book are in italics. I don’t usually write about faith, but the prayer we say on the first night of Hanukkah, the Shehecheyanu, is my favorite blessing of the Jewish year.

What Happens on Hanukkah
By Laura Shovan

Brave the busy market, searching for a jug of oil.
Drop the peeled potatoes into water or they’ll spoil.

While the pan is heating, grate and mix with eggs and flour.
Oil spits! Onion stinks! I am going to need a shower.

Turn the latkes gently. Put them on a festive plate.
Gobble one (so hot, but yum!) Finally we can celebrate.

Light the candles, spin the dreidel, open shiny gelt.
Thank G-d for this season, our family and our health.

Miss Katie from Rockland Public Library reads The Eight Knights of Hanukkah by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Galia Bernstein.

30 responses to “Happy Hanukkah!”

  1. Susan says:

    Happy Hanukkah! What a nice way to start the holiday, with your poem. We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas, and I look forward to lighting the candles, too.

  2. Chappy chanukah! I can smell the oil in your poem.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thanks, Buffy. I just saw a tip to fry the latkes on the grill (outside!) with a cast iron skillet to avoid the lingering smell of oil and onions. Giving that some serious thought. Happy Hanukkah!

  3. I love latkes and your poem celebrates the hot splattering oil and all the ingredients. Have a very happy Hanukkah!

  4. Linda Mitchell says:

    Happy Chanukah! I’ve always loved the embracing of family and tradition at this time of year in Jewish families. Your poem puts me right in the kitchen with you getting ready to celebrate. Thanks for including us–so like you to do that! Spin the dreidel for me

  5. I love that you zeroed in on the verbs, Laura. What a lively poem, perfect for Hannukah!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      It’s an exercise I created for my students, to help ground their writing in the real world and get their characters moving through a scene. It was fun to apply the idea to a holiday celebration.

  6. Laura, I love this! You’ve captured a feeling of joy-filled busyness and gratitude. And you’ve got me wanting to go in search of verbs to wrangle with and rearrange. There’s nothing like that end-of-semester feeling, and also — how delightful is Miss Katie?! Happy Hanukkah!

  7. Happy Hannukah, Laura! I can smell the doughnuts coming to life in your kitchen! Enjoy your time off.

  8. jama says:

    So wonderful!! Love that you created a poem with Leslie’s verbs. I WANT LATKES NOW! Happy Hanukkah!!!

  9. Tricia says:

    I do love this poem. Isn’t it wonderful how many of our holiday and religious traditions include families cooking and eating together?
    Happy Hanukkah!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Tricia. You’re right. There is something about being in the kitchen together, telling stories, breaking bread. Happy holidays!

  10. Happy Hanukkah, Laura. I enjoyed your poem. It brought back memories of the teachers in my elementary building that made latkes for the children to start the Hanukkah lesson. Yum is right, especially with applesauce. I appreciate you sharing the book with a video. I did not have that one in my holiday collection. Enjoy your holiday with your family.

  11. Laura, your lively poem and this post are all shining brightly with mitzvot! What a fun Hanukkah story, and wonderful reader too. And how clever to pull the verbs from the story to create your poem. I make my latkes with sweet potatoes and bake them in the oven, of course with oil. Happy Hanukkah to you and your family! 🥔🍠 🕎 PS book arrived today, haven’t opened it yet, but am looking forward to reading it, many thanks, xox

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Aw, Michelle. What a sweet comment. We do a sweet potato latke too (with raisins and curry), along with the traditional potato latke. Happy, happy Hanukkah to you.

  12. Mary Lee says:

    Hooray for the miraculous oil and the fried foods to celebrate it! Happy Happy Hanukkah!

  13. Rose Cappelli says:

    Happy Hanukkah, Laura! Your poem captures the joy in cooking and celebrating. And thanks for the idea of borrowing verbs. I think I’ll give it a try.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thanks, Rose. You know I love to cook! The verbs exercise is a great one for grounding characters in their exterior experience. I’m going to continue using it with my students.

  14. Linda says:

    Loved your poem, Laura. Happy Hanukkah!

  15. Happy Hanukkah! Such a fun poem to read with all its action and its rhyme! The sounds are delicious. I have never fried anything and the whole process scares me. Good luck with your cooking endeavors.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thanks, Margaret. Fried food comes with the holiday, though I have done baked latkes before and I know you can bake donuts (but then aren’t they just tiny round cakes with holes in the middle?)

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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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