Light the chanukiah and spin the dreidel. It’s time for Hanukkah! Between scouring grocery stores for gelt and testing latke recipes, it’s easy to feel like you’re running out of time. (And it feels like Hanukkah comes earlier and earlier every year.) But if you’re shopping for the littlest member of your family, we’ve got you covered. Here are eight unexpected picture and board books for the rad kid in your life – one for each night of the Festival of Lights.
The Boy and the Bindi by Vivek Shraya & Rajni Perera
Let’s get intersectional this Hanukkah with a picture book about a young Hindu boy exploring his gender expression through his mother’s bindi. The Boy and the Bindi was written by singer and poet Vivek Shraya, a trans artist whose debut poetry collection even this page is white won a 2017 Publishing Triangle Award in Canada. Shraya was recently on Cameron Esposito’s podcast "Queery" talking about her writing, life, and easy-going collaboration with fellow Canadians Tegan and Sara. Looking for a thematic book pairing between your favorite kid and their parents? Grab a copy of even this page is white and wrap it right alongside The Boy and the Bindi.
The Juniper Books' BabyLit series by Jennifer Adams & Alison Oliver
For the youngest kids on your list, Juniper Books’ BabyLit series brings the classics into babies’ small hands – and mouths. These board books introduce bright colors and fun patterns to young eyes, distilling each classic down to its essential parts. We love Sense and Sensibility, a primer on opposites, and A Little Princess, a primer on friendship. Alison Oliver’s illustrations are so gorgeous you’ll want to frame them. (And luckily you can! She has several prints for purchase on her website.) And Jennifer Adams’ writing makes us wish we grew up with these books. With 28 titles to choose from, this is the gift that keeps on giving year after year.
Margaret and the Moon by Dean Robbins & Lucy Knisley
Start your young scientists early with this incredible picture book about Margaret Hamilton, the NASA computer responsible for writing the code that put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon! Margaret and the Moon is a story beautifully told by Dean Robbins, whose Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass is another favorite of ours. We’re thrilled that he teamed up with Lucy Knisley, whose travelogues we’ve been obsessed with for years. Her playful illustration style is beautifully showcased in her first picture book.
The Mini Myths series by Joan Holub & Leslie Patricelli
We were big fans of Greek mythology – especially in elementary school. But imagine if we were introduced to those classic characters before we could even talk. Joan Holub and Leslie Patricelli’s Mini Myths series tells the story of the Greek gods with a playful twist. Manners and creativity are taught through board books like Good Job, Athena, where Athena teaches her fellow gods how to tie their shoes, and Don’t Get Lost, Odysseus, where Odysseus is tempted by an Odyssey-themed play area at the mall. They’re silly and simple, but it’s a fun introduction to the ancient myths.
Yayoi Kusama: From Here to Infinity by Sarah Suzuki & Ellen Weinstein
Chances are, someone in your Instagram feed has posted a selfie in one of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Rooms. Now Kusama’s mirrored rooms and bright patterns can play amongst the other books in your favorite kid’s library. Yayoi Kusama: From Here to Infinity is the Museum of Modern Art’s response to Kusama’s illustrious career and a gorgeous one at that. Pretty soon, kids will be clamoring for some Obliteration Room time after their bedtime story.
Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai & Kerascoet
Is there anything 20-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai can’t do? In her picture book debut, Yousafzai tells her own story of hope and bravery through the wish for a magic pencil – a pencil that would let her erase the bad from her life and the lives of those she loved, a pencil that would allow her to literally rewrite a better world for herself and others. Malala’s Magic Pencil, gorgeously illustrated by Kerascoet, is an inspiring story for young readers. It’s the perfect gift for the future activist in your life.
A Tale of Two Mommies by Vanita Oelschlager & Mike Blanc
This sweet conversation between a young boy and his two friends is the perfect introduction to same sex parenting. “If you have a momma and a mommy, who fixes things when they break?” one child asks. “Oh, Mommy has all the tools. There’s nothing she can’t fix or make.” A Tale of Two Mommies progresses so naturally, we want to wrap writer Vanita Oelschlager into the biggest hug with every turn of the page. Her publishing company Vanita Books puts education first, helping kids grow through the life experiences presented in their books. After you’ve gifted A Tale of Two Mommies, pick up Ivy in Bloom, a completely different story that introduces children to the poetry of Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost.
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky
Make the last night of Hanukkah extra special with a book that will grow with them. Rachel Ignotofsky’s illustrations are exquisite, featuring incredible scientists like Katherine Johnson, Marie Curie, and Rosalind Franklin. On the left of each scientist’s gorgeous two-page spread, Ignotofsky features a portrait of the scientist with a few digestible facts about her contributions to her field. On the right, Ignotofsky does a deeper dive into the scientist’s biography – perfect for an independent reader looking for a challenge. If you already gifted Women in Science to the future Woman in STEM in your life, try Ignotofsky’s follow-up book Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win. You might inspire the next Serena Williams!