Oil for light in a desecrated temple burns seven days longer than the restorers had anticipated . . . The recounting of this miracle each year initiates what is, for children, one of the most colorful and joyful of Jewish holidays, Hanukah (beginning at sundown Dec. 14).
The background and meaning of this holiday are brought alive in a number of unique books for children. They explain the orgins of the holiday for non-Jewish, as well as Jewish young people and explore the means of celebrating and remembering the happy events of long ago. Ages 3-6
"Did Judah Maccabee Water-ski?" By Sol Scharfstein. Illustrated by Toby Rosser. (KTAV, 95 cents).
Lyrical question-and-answer nonsense verses aim at amusing and bemusing wee ones while subtly teaching them bits of Hanukah history. It succeeds.
"The Eight Nights." By Jane Bearman. (Union of American Hebrew Congregations, $3.95).
This "Hanukah Counting Book" offers a cheerful rhyme for each of the eight nights, plus colorful graphics to delight the young child.
"Hanukah in My House." By Norma Simon. Illustrated by Ayala Gordon. (United Synagogue of America, $2.25).
A young girl clearly describes the family traditions such as latkes (potato pancakes), songs, gelt (money) and games that make this a special holiday in her house.
"Hanukkah A B C." By Lillian Abramson. Illustrated by Gabe Josephson. (Shulsinger Bros., $3.50).
Antiochus through Zeus: Words, printed in large type, and their meaning fit together like peices of a puzzle to convey the story and traditions of Hanukah. Ages 5-8
"Hanukah Money." By Sholem Aleichem. Translated and adapted by Uri Schulevitz and Elizabeth Shub. Illustrated by Uri Schulevitz. (Greenwillow, $6.95).
In this lyrical classic, Sholem Aleichem brings alive warm memories of times past as Motl and his brother enjoy a Hanukah celebration with their large and colorful family. The illustrations complement the rich decriptions of a traditionally idiosyncratic family observing its traditions.
"Potato Pancakes All Around: A Hanukah Tale." By Marilyn Hirsh. (Bonim, $6.95).
The golden illustrations add a special warmth to this comical tale of a peddler who makes enough potato pancakes from a crust of bread to feed the gantze family.
"Chanukah: The Festival of Lights." By Sophia N. Cedarbaum. Pictures by Clare and John Ross. (Union of American Hebrew Congregations, $1.75).
Danny and Debbie enter a Hanukah Home Decoration Contest and cooperate to create a holiday scene that wins them first prize. Later, they invite their friends over to share Hanukah fun and games.
"The return of the Golem: A Chanukah Story." By Peter Ruggill. (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, $6.95).
Ruggill has added a bit of space fantasy to this witty folk tale about a brother and sister who, with the aid of their rabbi and his magical Golem, save their synagogue from destruction. Ages 8-12
"The Hanukah Story ." By Marilyn Hirsh. (Bonim, $7.95).
Unlike most Hanukah stories that stress the miracle of the oil, this dynamically described account stresses the Maccabee's brave fight for religious freedom. Hirsh's thorough research effort is reflected in her colorful illustrations, as well as in the story itself.
"Hanukah Crafts ." By Joyce Becker. (Bonim, $6.95).
The entire family can choose from over 200 do-it-yourself Hanukah projects and enjoy decorating rooms, planning parties or making gifts that are made by hand, but come from the heart.
"Hanukah in Song and Story ." By Rabbi Charles Wengrov. Illustrated by Emanuel Schary. (Shulsinger Bros., $3.99).
Along with a lively story, the blessings and songs for Hanukah are included in Hebrew and in transliteration in this holiday book for music lovers of all ages.
"Hanukah Fun Book " and "Hanukah Game Book ." Both by David A. Adler. (Bonim, $1.95 each).
These imaginative activity books provide children with enough Hanukah games, puzzles, magic and riddles to last the entire eight days . . . maybe more.