Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein by Amanda Peet and Andrea Troyer, illustrated by Christine Davenier

Rachel Rosenstein loves Christmas.  She loves everything about it - the lights, the trees, the Santas, the sweets, the presents.  The only problem is that Rachel is Jewish and her family doesn't celebrate Christmas, they celebrate Hanukkah.  But for Rachel, Hanukkah lacks all the glitz and glamour that comes with Christmas.

So Rachel decides to do something about Christmas and Santa Claus.  First up, a letter to Santa asking him to stop at her house even though her family is Jewish.  Next, a visit to the old guy to see if he has received her letter.

When the letter and visit don't work out the way she thought the would, Rachel decides it's time to do something radical.  With decorations and cookies for Santa, Rachel is ready.  But the next morning, what a disappointment - no Santa visit, no presents.

To make matters more difficult, Rachel's mother has to go to work at a hospital caring for sick kids and leaving her already sad daughter.  Later, however, her dad takes Rachel and her sister to the park, then to a Chinese restaurant for dinner with her grandfather.

Pretty soon, the restaurant is full of families.  It was great, no one there celebrated Christmas either.  They celebrated Hanukkah, just as Rachel and her family did, and Chinese New Year, only a few weeks away, and Diwali, also a festival of lights for people who were Hindu.  Rachel has so much fun meeting all these other people that she not longer felt too bad about Christmas.  

I found myself with very mixed feelings about this book.  Rachel's disappointment that Santa didn't come is understandable and when her mother consoles her by telling her that "Sometimes, no matter how badly we want something, we just have to accept what is," I thought wise words.  And they sent me back to the beginning of the book that describes Rachel's family and how they celebrate the Jewish holidays together.  The text says that most of the time it is fun to be Jewish - and it is.  The family comes together for these days and there is lots of love there.

And when Rachel meets the other kids who don't celebrate Christmas, there is lots of camaraderie when they discover the one thing they really have in common - not being part of Christmas.  And Rachel finally gets it when she realizes that "when there [are] so many great holidays in the world, why feel so bad about one little old day like Christmas?'  A great lesson learned by a little girl?  New found pride in her own religion and a real appreciation for other religions beside hers?

Yes, but then you turn the page and it says maybe Rachel could still feel a tiny bit bad about not being part of Christmas and the whole thing collapse for me.

This book addresses a real dilemna that a lot of children and parents must deal with at this time of year.  Rachel's story could have been such an inspiring one for kids who may feel the way she does about not being part of a holiday that has become so prevalent in our society it dwarfs all other holidays and which has, ironically, lost much of it's religious significance for many people.

But maybe that last page will generate some good conversations with our children about how we celebrate religious holidays.

This book is recommended for readers age 4+
This book was borrowed from a friend.


This is book 2 of my #Readukkah Reading Challenge for celebrating Chanukah hosted by the Association of Jewish Libraries

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