Dassie Prus, co-director of Chabad Lubavitch of Doylestown, wrote If the Candles Could Speak to meet the need she saw for children’s books that told the Chanukah story.
She used to work at the Chanukah Wonderland, a pop-up store sponsored by Lubavitch of Bucks County, in Newtown, and struggled to recommend a book for elementary-aged children. She felt the Chanukah books available either didn’t offer a complete or accurate enough telling of the story, lacked compelling illustrations suitable for young children, or were too long to be told in one sitting.
In If the Candles Could Speak, different-colored menorah candles tell the story of Chanukah. The book includes instructions on how to light the menorah and play dreidel, information about holiday foods and a Chanukah glossary. The book is available in both a nearly 2-foot-tall version and as a regular-sized book.
Prus and author Shosana Lepon also co-wrote The Purim Big Book, a large-sized children’s book telling the story of Purim, which will come out in January. This book includes information on how to celebrate the holiday. Prus plans to eventually release a regular-sized version of the book.
“It says the story in a way that is appealing for all ages, and its beautiful illustrations … really bring the story to life,” Prus said.
Prus was snowed in with her young children before Chanukah several years ago when she had the idea of the candles telling the holiday story.
“The rabbis said that when you light the candles, you’re supposed to sit around and watch the candles and listen to the stories they say,” Prus said.
Her children, she said, loved the rendition, and she decided to write it down and turn it into a book.
She searched the web for an illustrator whose style she liked and reached out. That’s how she found Michael Graham. He’s not Jewish, so she taught him the story and showed him pictures.
“I also tried to include, in the illustrations, more details than just the story,” Prus said. “You can expound on it for children who are even more knowledgeable or older. … I want to make it a comprehensive story.”
She decided to make the book a large-sized book because her children were enamored by the big books they saw during story time at the Doylestown Library.
“I thought it would be lovely if we could make Jewish children excited about a Jewish book,” Prus said. “It’s a great educational tool. That’s why I first made it as a big book.”
She plans to continue making Jewish Big Books. Her next project will be one about Passover.
“I wanted to make the kids excited about something Jewish,” Prus said.