Gift ideas: Hanukkah & whole world for kids of all ages

Happy holidays!
We are helping you find spiritually uplifting gifts that will light up the holidays for your loved ones.
Earlier: We recommended a true-crime drama, a guide to finding contentment & an unusual prayer book.
Great video: We’ve found a terrific BBC sampler, an Ed Asner classic & Tree of Life, too.
For Children of All Ages: Fold out Hanukkah, circle the globe & enjoy spiritual wisdom of animals.
Bible Study with Fresh Eyes: We’ve got a trio of new and innovative Bible-study resources.


Considering that the most common theme of Hanukkah is freedom, as Michael Rosen and Robert Sabuda point out on the first page of their new Chanukah Lights, a pop-up book—then perhaps it is fitting that there are various English-language spellings of the holiday: from Hanukkah to Chanukah. The latter spelling is Rosen’s choice. His huge range of children’s books, over the years, runs from fishing to Jewish tales and his wonderful 2006 picture book, Chanukah Lights Everywhere, uses this same spelling. However, with no disrespect intended toward Rosen, this pop-up book is quite simply another must-own Robert Sabuda extravaganza for fans of 3D, moving-paper books. For the year-end holidays, we say: Robert, it’s about time! Sabuda has produced three other winter-holiday books, including one on the 12 Days of Christmas. Finally, he turns to Hanukkah. The collaboration with Rosen led him not to repeat the ancient story of military conflict and victory. Rather, Rosen and Sabuda use eight elaborate pop ups to chart the wide diversity of Jewish experiences around the world today. There’s even a gigantic, centuries-old sailing ship in one pop up, which reminds us that the Jewish diaspora has been unfolding for a very long time.


The gigantic pop-up book for Hanukkah isn’t the only world-circling journey Candlewick Press is offering at the end of this year! At ReadTheSpirit, we are journalists, so we are thrilled that this comic-book-style illustrated biography features a lively version of Nellie Bly’s round-the-world adventure. Two years ago, in 2009, we were embarrassed to overhear a mental mistake on NPR, listing Nellie Bly among a litany of “serial killers.” (No kidding! It actually happened on NPR!) As a result, we published a 2009 overview of Nellie Bly’s life as a pioneering journalist. While it is easy to dismiss Nellie as a publicity seeker, she clearly was driven to shine the light of journalism on many unfortunate corners of the human community. Even in this new graphic novel, which focuses only on her round-the-world adventure, Matt Phelan points out that she made time on Christmas Day 1889 to visit a leper colony. That was classic Nellie. This new graphic biography, Around the World: Three Remarkable Journeys, also features Thomas Stevens, the first person to cycle around the world, and Joshua Slocum, the first person to sail solo around the globe.


All we really need to say about the third book we are recommnding today is two words: Eckhart Tolle. Millions still are inspired by his approach to teaching spiritual truth. In Guardians of Being: Spiritual Teachings from Our Dogs and Cats, Tolle collaborated in an unprecedented way with Mutts cartoonist Patrick McDonnell. What is the connection point between these two very talented men? In our 2009 interview with McDonnell, which marked the hardback debut of this book, the Mutts cartoonist said: “In studying Tolle’s work—not only his books but his CDs and his DVDs—he talks about nature a lot and he talks about how animals bring us into the present moment—dogs and cats in particular. That’s at the heart of my work, too. I’m always showing readers this important bond we have with our animals. Since I started studying Eckhart’s work, some of my own work has been influenced by his teaching.” If you know someone who loves either Tolle’s or McDonnell’s work, this is a slam-dunk great gift for the holidays.

Originally published at, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

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