At last a great American Hanukkah story! This very funny, very touching novel of growing up Jewish has the makings of a holiday classic.
One lousy miracle. Is that too much to ask?
Evidently so for Joel, as he tries to survive Hannukah 1971 in the suburbs of the suburbs of Los Angeles (or, as he calls it, "The Land of Shriveled Dreams"). That's no small task when you're a "seriously funny-looking" 12-year-old magician who dreams of being his own superhero: Normalman. And Joel's a long way from that as the only Jew at Bixby School, where his attempts to make himself disappear fail spectacularly. Home is no better, with a family that's not just mortifyingly embarrassing but flat-out broke.
That's why Joel's betting everything on these eight nights, to see whether it's worth believing in God or miracles or anything at all. Armed with his favorite jokes, some choice Yiddish words, and a suitcase full of magic tricks, he's scrambling to come to terms with the world he lives in - from hospitals to Houdini to the Holocaust - before the last of the candles burns out.
No wonder his head is spinning: He's got dreidels on the brain. And little does he know that what's actually about to happen to him and his family this Hanukkah will be worse than he'd feared. And better than he could have imagined.
"A welcome addition to the canon of holiday stories." (Booklist)
"This fresh, fast-paced read is a must purchase for any middle school collection.... As an aspiring magician, Joel understands manipulating belief and often uses his magic as a metaphor.... Seriousness is artfully balanced with Joel's comedic explanations of Yiddish words, and his perception of Jewish traditions." (School Library Connection)
"Relatable and humorous.... A coming-of-age novel steeped in tradition [that] will appeal to anyone who has felt different and those who believe - or want to believe - in miracles." (VOYA)