Fans of “Magic Tree House” will love “A Dreidel in Time” by Marcia Berneger with illustrations by Beatriz Castro (ages 7+), which transports readers via a magical dreidel to when Hanukkah began.
When the grandparents of 9-year-old Benjamin and his 12-yearold sister, Devorah, visit on Hanukkah, the siblings hope to receive gifts. Instead, they’re offered a large, lopsided dreidel speckled red and gray with fancy Hebrew letters. Mom, Bubbe and Zayde encourage the disappointed kids to try out this strange dreidel. Respectful of family tradition, the siblings agree. The dreidel spins wildly, vanishes, and the children realize they’ve traveled back to the land of their ancestors.
There, Benjamin and Devorah meet siblings Simon and Shoshana, who help them escape the cruel soldiers arresting everyone observing Jewish traditions. Unfortunately, Judah Maccabee (the Jewish priest who led the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire from 167–160 BCE) believes the time travelers are spies. Benjamin, knowing from Hebrew school how the Hanukkah story and history play out, warns the Maccabees that Antiochus will be sending soldiers to find and fight them. Still, the siblings are sent to a guarded cave. Inside, they again discover and spin the dreidel, which sends them forward in time two years before it disappears again.
This time, Maccabee adopts a battle strategy that Benjamin suggests, but the plan only partially works and Benjamin is captured by the enemy. Simon and Shoshana convince Maccabee to ambush the enemies. Devorah boldly rescues her brother and just barely escapes a commander’s spear, thanks to another spin of the dreidel. The siblings arrive at the Temple rededication, where their search for an unbroken jar of oil ultimately leads to a final dreidel spin and their return home – complete with a newfound appreciation of Hanukkah’s significance.