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ALEXANDRA’S SCROLL by Miriam Chaikin


The Story of the First Hanukkah

by Miriam Chaikin & illustrated by Stephen Fieser

Age Range: 10 - 13

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-8050-6384-6
Publisher: Henry Holt

Historical fiction for children is full of characters like Alexandra—a plucky young girl with 21st-century attitudes. The setting is Judea circa 165 B.C.E. and the land is ruled by the Syrian Greek Antiochus. Alexandra, who would be considered an overachiever in any era, is prodded by her mother, a classic (and classical) pushy parent, to follow the example of Queen Esther and write an account of the grave dangers faced by the Jews under the rule of a tyrant. Alexandra roams the streets of Jerusalem with her friend Rachel, whose hair is always neat while the literate Alexandra eschews the wooden comb and mirror her mother gave her as well as any other decorative enhancements to her appearance. It is through her eyes that readers see the gradual tightening of the noose around the necks of the Jews, culminating in the sacking of the Temple. Alexandra’s father leaves to join the group of fighters known as the Macabees, the Hammers for God, led by the courageous Judah. Three years pass before Alexandra can recount the miraculous victory of the heavily outnumbered Macabees over the Greeks. The passage of time sees changes in Alexandra: she sports a new hairdo and an age-appropriate interest in boys. Chaikin (Angels Sweep the Desert Floor, not reviewed, etc.) places more emphasis on the drama of the battle for religious freedom won by the Macabees than on the miracle of the oil that lasted eight days. She succeeds in fleshing out the familiar story with historical detail. Fieser’s (Invisible Kingdoms, p. 1480, etc.) colorful, soft-focus illustrations include a historical map of Judea. (author’s note, afterword) (Fiction. 10-13)