Oy Vay! Up, Up and Away!
Rabbi Rocketpower and the Mystery of the Missing Menorahs: A Hanukkah Humdinger by Rabbi Susan Abramson and Aaron Dvorkin; illustrated by Ariel DiOrio
The Passover and Easter holidays are almost upon us, and in a random karmic universal moment (or something), I happened upon this fantastic title… and at a local rummage sale, no less! And sure, I’m about four months off as far as holidays go (this title is clearly about Hanukkah), but it’s one in a series that covers many of the traditionally celebrated Jewish holidays, and Passover has its own title. So, moving forward:
Meet the Mensches, a completely normal family: mom Rabbi Beatrice Ann Mensch (B.A. Mensch, for short) has a superhero alter-ego as Rabbi Rocketpower. Dad is super-smart and has a super-smart computer on which he uses his mad search engine skills to solve epic puzzles. Aaron, their son, is a Super-Boy-In-Training, and his cranky cat Purr (short for Purreneal Pest) is actually an alien. Like I said, pretty normal, right?
It’s the first night of Hanukkah. Aaron is excited to celebrate, and it’s Purr’s first Hanukkah with the family! (Purr is uninterested, though Aaron makes the story and traditions of Hanukkah interesting.) As Rabbi Mensch is wrapping the presents, Aaron looks for their missing hanukkiut (a specific nine-candled menorah for Hanukkah). It turns out that Jewish families across the neighborhood are missing their menorahs too–Meowrat aliens in a litter-box-shaped space ship have stolen them to repair their spaceship! (The aliens think the menorahs will work as rockets. Silly aliens.) What’s a Super-Boy-In-Training, cranky alien cat, computer genius dad, and superhero mom to do? By combining their skills–and with Rabbi Rocketpower swooping in to ultimately save the day–the Mensch family successfully return everybody’s menorahs in time for a very happy Hanukkah, complete with words of thanks, yummy foods, dreidel games, and special presents.
Wacky and completely unbelievable, this story is good fun for Jewish kids and families, and it would serve as an accessible, entertaining introduction to kids from other backgrounds. Some of the story can be hard to follow if you’re not familiar with at least some of the lingo (kosher, shofar, yad, latkes), but all Hebrew and Yiddish terms are italicized when first used in the text, and clear, kid-friendly, and often funny definitions can be found in a glossary at the back of the book. Recipes for potato latkes and sufganiyot (doughnuts for Hanukkah), along with rules to play dreidel, are also included in this 43-page early-reader chapter book. Comic-book like illustrations partner well with the text and add humor and ingenuity to the storyline.
Like I said before, there’s a whole series (four books so far), and the Passover title is Rabbi Rocketpower and the Half-Baked Matzah Mystery: A Particularly Peculiar Passover (ISBN 9780965954662). You can purchase it either through the Rabbi Rocketpower website or on Amazon.
Author Rabbi Susan Abramson donates a portion of the profits from each book to “mitzvah” projects. If you are interested in using one of her books for a fundraiser, you can contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you just want to enjoy them? By all means, go ahead! “Oy Vay! Up, up and away!”
Age 7-9 (good read-aloud for younger kids [with explanations])
Images from www.rabbirocketpower.com