Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins

Rate this book
A traveler rids a village synagogue of goblins. A Caldecott Honor Book.

30 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1989

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Eric A. Kimmel

148 books102 followers
Eric A. Kimmel was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1946. He attended PS 193, Andries Hudde Junior High School, and Midwood High School. Brooklyn College was across the street from his high school, so he didn’t want to go there. He headed west, to Easton, Pennsylvania where he graduated from Lafayette College in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature.
Eric worked as an elementary school teacher at P.S. 68 in Manhattan while working on his masters degree at New York University. From there he went to the US. Virgin Islands where he worked as a teacher and librarian. He spent a lot of time lying on St. Thomas’ beautiful beaches.
Returning to reality, he finished his Ph.D. degree in Education at the University of Illinois in 1973. He taught courses in language arts, children’s literature, and storytelling at Indiana University at South Bend in South Bend, Indiana from 1973 to 1978, and from 1978 to 1993 at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. Eric retired from college teaching in 1993 to become a full-time writer. He still holds the rank of Professor Emeritus of Education at Portland State.
Eric has wanted to be an author since he first discovered back in kindergarten that people called authors make books. His first book came out in 1974. Since then he has published over fifty titles, many of which have won numerous state awards, appeared on school and library recommended lists, and won prestigious awards such as the Caldecott Honor Medal (Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins) and the Sydney Taylor Picture Book Award (The Chanukkah Guest and Gershon’s Monster).
Eric travels throughout the United States and the world visiting schools, talking about his books, and telling stories. His first love is sharing stories from different countries and cultures. During the last several years he and his wife Doris have visited China, Norway, Italy, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Singapore, Canada, and Panama. He is always looking out for ideas for new books.
Eric and Doris live in Portland, Oregon. Eric has a dog named Tasha, a cat named Inky, and a tank full of tropical fish. He has several hobbies. He loves bluegrass music. He keeps his banjo next to his desk so he can practice whenever he takes a break from writing.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
1,604 (52%)
4 stars
938 (30%)
3 stars
413 (13%)
2 stars
82 (2%)
1 star
30 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 317 reviews
Profile Image for Brina.
904 reviews4 followers
December 22, 2019
Reposting for my Chanukah countdown! This is our all time favorite Chanukah book. There is no official read date here because every year we must read it at least five times. Happy Chanukah, everyone!

Hershel and the Chanukah Goblins by Eric Kimmel is my family's favorite Chanukah book. It holds a special place in our home, to the point where I actually purchased it last year as opposed to borrowing it from the library. We start reading this on the first day of the Jewish month of Kislev- 3 1/2 weeks before Chanukah starts- and read it over and over again until we know the story by heart.

Kimmel tells a tale of Jewish village of Ostropol in Eastern Europe similar to Isaac Bashevis Singer's tales of the village of Chelm. Supernatural occurances especially haunts by goblins are the norm, and in this situation, the goblins have stolen Chanukah from the village. Even the rabbi is fearful of countering these goblins and the villagers are resigned each year to life without a Chanukah celebration. That is until Hershel appears and agrees to spend the entire eight nights and days of Chanukah in the old shul atop the hill in order to defeat the goblins and bring about a miracle.

What we love the most is the illustrations and how each goblin is more fearful and powerful than the rest. These pictures makes the book conducive to acting out the scenes, each complete with special voices for each of the goblins. With each night, the illustrations grow darker, and Hershel must use all of his wits to outsmart them. As this is a kids book, of course, it has a happy ending as the illustrations depict a menorah in each house's window. Yet, this story features a witty protagonist who must use his head to defeat darkness, making this a compelling story for children of all ages.

My favorite memory is when my now fifth grader was in first grade and was student of the week during Kislev and she asked me to read this book to her class. Her classmates all sat mesmerized as I told the story of Hershel defeating the goblins, each with their own special voice. Whether one celebrates Chanukah or not, this is a wonderful story at this time of year about good defeating evil and light over darkness.

As always, 5 bright stars!!!
Profile Image for Calista.
3,886 reviews31.2k followers
September 17, 2018
I know Hanukkah is around the winter Solstice and this book had goblins in the title so I thought it would be good around Halloween. It is a very good book. I enjoyed the artwork in the book and I thought that this was a spiritual battle of sorts. Goblins have claimed the synagog and won't let Hanukkah candles be lit. Hershel declares that he can keep them lit. Hershel has faith, faith in his tradition and also faith in himself. He knows he can outwit the goblins

It's a spooky and creepy story. The goblins are a little scary. I didn't read this to my niece as she scars easily, but I did read it to the nephew. He thought it was a great story. He gave it 4 stars. He enjoyed looking at the goblins, being scared and wanting more.

An interesting story and I'm glad it got a Caldecott honor.
Profile Image for Mariah Roze.
1,020 reviews923 followers
November 27, 2017
Today I had my students raise their hands if they had ever heard of Hanukkah. Not a single one of them raised their hand.... So I needed to change that. For the month of December and the end of November we will be learning about Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas.

This Jewish Folktale was perfect for teaching my students the basics of Hanukkah. We talked about the 8 days and what a menorah is.

This book also has a 22minute short film, so my students watched that after we finished the book.
Profile Image for Manybooks.
3,127 reviews104 followers
December 6, 2017
An entertaining, engaging (as well as informative) folktale-like offering of how Hershel of Ostropol, arrriving at an anonymous Eastern European village on the Eve of Hanukkah, with clever wile, with courage and perseverance rids the village synagogue of an army of nasty demonic goblins that had been preventing Hanukkah celebrations, both Eric Kimmel's narrative and Tricia Schart Hyman's accompanying illustrations are absolutely fabulous (to quote the Brit Com series, and with no pun intended).

There are both humour and pathos present in Hershel and the Hanukkah Demons, both joy and potentially ominous threats depicted and related, although personally, I would leave a bit of a caveat that particularly the illustrations do get more and more frightening and creepy as the tale progresses, and that especially the depiction of the Goblin King, with his vast size and black pointing fingers seems rather satanic in scope and might well frighten younger or more sensitive children.

With regard to folklore and culture, Eric Kimmel's narrative really does seem to feel and read like a delicious buffet of traditional themes. The greedy goblin who stamps his foot so hard that he shatters himself into a millions pieces (on the second night) has palpable and definite (appreciated) shades of Rumpelstilzchen type tales, while the main protagonist's ever more challenging and dangerous obstacles (which get progressively worse until there is a final, destructive but ultimately cleansing and positive climax) is actually a globally common folkloric concept. And of course, Hershel of Ostropol himself represents a glowing and lively portrait of the noble trickster of tradition and lore, the clever outcast, who primarily through cunning and wiliness, and not magic, succeeds and triumphs, even overcoming evil and sorcery (and saving Hanukkah in the process).

The informative author's note on the history and significance of Hanukkah is an added bonus (much appreciated, it significantly raises the potential educational value of Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins). That being said, I do think Eric Kimmel should also have provided details on the narrative itself (or rather, on its folkloric contents). Is this tale an original Jewish folklore inspired offering, or is it based on, is it adapted from specific Yiddish, Jewish folktales? Is Hershel of Ostropol a constructed character, or was there really such a person, either historically or in folklore? On an academic and folkloric level, I am thus left with more questions than answers and while the author's note is more than adequate concering the significance of Hanukkah as a Jewish holiday, it does feel somewhat lacking with regard to the historical background and origins of the text, or rather the potential origins, as I do realise this might well be a completely original tale (but even if that were the case, this should all have been duly noted and explained by the author).

EDITED TO ADD: My curiosity and desire, or rather my need to know finally did get the better of me and I decided to check Wikipedia with regard to Hershel of Ostropol. It seems that he is indeed a prominent figure in Jewish humour, a Ukrainian prankster, who often, like other similar European tricksters (such as the German Till Eulenspiegel whom he very very closely appears to resemble) specifically targets the rich and powerful (Robin Hood also comes to mind here). And the literary/folkloric Hershel of Ostropol is actually based on a bona fide historical figure (who lived in what is now the Ukraine in the late 18th and early 19th century) and became court jester to Rabbi Boruch of Medzhybizh. And therefore, why did Eric Kimmel not consider including this in my opinion both interesting and important educational cultural/folkloric information in his otherwise excellent author's note? Truly, I have to say that the fact that NONE of the details on Hershel of Ostropol that I found during my own online research have been mentioned by Eric A. Kimmel (and to me, these are supremely important and essential supplemental details) have proven enough of a recurring disappointment to now consider only a high three star rating to and for Hershel and the Hanukkah Demons and no longer the four star ranking I originally had chosen.
Profile Image for Mia.
332 reviews202 followers
January 23, 2016
It's Christmas Eve, so I guess I'd better review a Hanukkah book! *grows horns and cloven hooves, laughs evilly*

In all seriousness though, I really love this book. I read it all the time as a child, and I remember thinking what a clever little badass Herschel was. Besides, nobody else I knew was Jewish (I lived, and still do, in a primarily Catholic, white, affluent town, and so being a biracial Jewish girl I was downright exotic). The basic premise in the story is that the village synagogue is haunted by- you guessed it- Hanukkah goblins, which our man Herschel must dispel using his wits and intelligence. The illustrations are awesome too, the colours are rich and vibrant.

I love these sorts of books, the kind that bring in a darker side to a holiday. Yes, I realise that this is a children's book which has a happy ending, but still... Hanukkah goblins. I think Krampus: The Yule Lord might have to be up next on my holiday reading list.

I should've reviewed this during Hanukkah, but it slipped my mind. Still, I hope everybody has a happy holiday season, and who knows, maybe you'll branch out and read some illustrated Jewish folk tales?
Profile Image for Clay Davis.
Author 4 books115 followers
December 13, 2022
Enjoyed the stream video production I checked out from the library.
Profile Image for Joan.
2,001 reviews
December 14, 2017
I LOVE this book! It is one of my all time favorites. It has adventure, humor and Jewish feel to it. While I understood the necessity, I got tired of the typical Chanukah book that basically explained the holiday. This one assumes some knowledge of the holiday. However, there is a summary in the back if you get questions during story time. Besides, it has illustrations by my favorite illustrator, the late great Trina Schart Hyman! And the illustrations make the book. A lot of the humor is shown in the pictures such as the first goblin with bat like wings (the cover illustration as well as inside the story) Although my favorite is probably the goblin with his hand stuck in the pickle jar! I read this every year to my kids during the holiday. Maybe I'll be able to do so with grandchildren someday....
January 31, 2013
“Isn’t tonight the first night of Hanukkah?” Hershel asked the villagers. “We don’t have Hanukkah, Hershel,” one of them answered sadly. “No Hanukkah? How can that be?”
“It’s because of the goblins. They haunt the old synagogue at the top of the hill. They hate Hanukkah. Whenever we try to light a menorah, the goblins blow out the candles. They break our dreidels. They throw our potato latkes on the floor. Those wicked goblins make our lives miserable all year long, but on Hanukkah it’s really bad.”

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins is a Caldecott Honor Book. This book tells the tale of a man named Hershel and his battle with the goblins that are trying to ruin Hanukkah.

The illustrations of the people in the book are very realistic and compliment the text nicely. There is a drastic contrast between the realistic illustrations of the people in the town of Ostropol and the goblins that are haunting it. To me, this contrast highlights how dramatic the goblins really feel to the people of the town and how scary they must have felt.

This book has vocabulary words in Hebrew that are related to Hanukkah such as “gimel”, “shin”, and “shammes”. The book also goes through some of the traditional elements of Hanukkah including lighting the eight candles and using a menorah. The book does a nice job integrating traditional religious themes with the silliness of goblins and hauntings. I thought the integration of the details felt very natural and easy to understand.

The last page of the book is a nice expository about the holiday of Hanukkah. It talks about the history of the holiday, traditional ways to celebrate Hanukkah, and food and games associated with Hanukkah.

I do not celebrate Hanukkah but many children in my school do, and I think this would be a fun story to read during the holiday season. I do not know if this story was created just for this book or if it derived from a tale long ago, but I would be interested to read more about the author and the making of this book.
Profile Image for Jennifer's.
96 reviews6 followers
December 19, 2022
Perfect for the first night of Hanukkah. Funny, smart, and a classic story of good outsmarting evil.
Profile Image for Abigail.
7,116 reviews186 followers
November 16, 2018
When Hershel of Ostropol comes upon a village that is unable to celebrate Hanukkah, because their synagogue has been taken over by goblins, he decides that he must help the people and rid them of their curse. Armed only with his cunning and courage, Hershel sets out to spend the eight nights of Hanukkah in the synagogue. Each night he lights the candles, cleverly defeating the goblins who attempt to stop him. But will he triumph over the truly fearsome King of the Goblins, who arrives on the final night?

Eric Kimmel has created an exciting story with Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, which has always been one of my favorite stories about the Jewish Festival of Lights. Sometimes creepy, sometimes humorous, it juxtaposes human courage with demonic evil, and although it does not discuss the original Hanukkah story, it is the story of a miracle, albeit a human one. Accompanied by Trina Schart Hyman's distinctive illustrations, which won her a Caldecott Honor, and which accentuate both the comedy and terror of the tale, this is a book which will please readers young and old.

I understand that Hershele Ostropoler was a historical figure - a trickster who lived in 18th century Ukraine, and who has become something of a folk hero. Those wishing to read more of his adventures should look for Kimmel's The Adventures of Hershel of Ostropol .
Profile Image for Dolly.
Author 1 book643 followers
September 11, 2016
This is an interesting folktale about Hanukkah, one that I'd never heard before. I was afraid that it would be a bit too scary for our girls, but they enjoyed the story and didn't seem to be affected by the slightly creepy illustrations of the scarier goblins.

The first few were actually kind of cute. Overall, it's a fantastic story and an interesting way to tell about the Jewish holiday.

This book was selected as one of the books for the August 2016- Caldecott Honor discussion at the Picture-Book Club in the Children's Books Group here at Goodreads.
Profile Image for Donald Armfield.
Author 66 books154 followers
December 6, 2016
I listened to my wife read this to our kids. A great little folktale on a goblin curse and a brave traveler who holds his ground against the goblins.
Profile Image for Jon Hewelt.
439 reviews8 followers
August 13, 2017
A delightful read when I was a kid, a delightful read now that I'm an adult.

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins tells the story of Hershel of Ostropol: a figure of Jewish folklore largely known for his wit. He happens upon a village besieged by goblins, creatures preventing them from celebrating the first night of Hanukkah. The villagers tell Hershel that the only way to defeat the goblins is to spend the remaining nights of Hanukkah in the old synagogue high on the hill, and to keep the Hanukkah candles lit in spite of the goblins' trickery.

Using his cleverness, Hershel tricks the goblins and keeps them from foiling his plans, laughing all the while. But the King of the Goblins, the most fearsome of their lot, has yet to appear, and there are many long hours left to keep the candles burning bright. Will Hershel make it to the last night of Hanukkah? Could his cleverness even trick the King of the Goblins?

A simple, timeless story accompanied by breath-taking (and, I admit, a little frightening) illustrations. I have long had a love and fascination for folklore, and Jewish folklore in particular. This story is all I know of Hershel of Ostropel, but on the strength of this story alone, I'm encouraged to read further. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins is a delightful, engaging read, for kids and adults alike. I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Nate Stender.
57 reviews
December 24, 2016
I had all but forgotten about this book until a friend of mine from college reminded me of it through Goodreads. This book as many different things to me at many different times, but the most important of them would be taught me about strength, determination, pride in my heritage, and perseverance in the face of insurmountable odds. I can best summarize how I feel about this masterpiece of Jewish folklore with this quote from Dennis Hill's Meditation, "It's a curious thing about darkness; no amount of darkness can banish the light of even a single candle."
Profile Image for Melki.
5,804 reviews2,342 followers
December 18, 2017
Hershel arrives in a village to find that the goblins who haunt the old synagogue have forbidden the celebrating of Hanukkah. To get rid of them, Hershel must spend eight nights in the synagogue, and on the eighth night, he must trick the King of the Goblins into lighting the Hanukkah candles himself.

Can Hershel outwit the goblins, and save the beloved holiday? There's more than latkes riding on the outcome.

An interesting and unpredictable story, with lovely illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman.
Profile Image for Jenny.
2,719 reviews25 followers
May 22, 2017
This seems very much a trickster tail to me. I read an Anansi story right before it and there are definite parallels. A village can't light their Hanukkah menorahs because goblins won't allow it. But if Hershel can light them each night and then get the goblin king to light them on the final night, then the village will be free to celebrate Hanukkah again. So Hershel sets off to do just that and through his clever, cunning tricks he is able to outsmart each goblin.
Profile Image for Amy.
938 reviews234 followers
December 8, 2017
Oh we just adored this! How wonderful that Goodreads led me to it. Goblins trying to cancel Chanukah? What could be better for a seven year old adorable curly haired monster? We loved it. Herschel is so smart, and I'm sure its not a spoiler if I tell you that he saves the day. Perfect, and perfect for holiday season.
Profile Image for Terry.
858 reviews37 followers
February 4, 2012
A great read aloud. Lots of fun for Jews and Gentiles alike.
30 reviews1 follower
July 1, 2012
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, by Eric Kimmel, is one of my all time favorite children book. It is told in 3rd person point of view, and it has a lexile of 400 so it is for upper elementary aged students. The main characters of this book are Hershel, and the 8 Hanukkah goblins. The setting of this book is in a synagogue on top of a hill in a little Jewish town. The plot of this story is that Hershel is passing thought a Jewish town on Hanukkah eve and he asks the villagers why there aren't any Menorahs out. They explain there are goblins in the synagogue who hate Hanukkah and they do not permit lighting the Hanukkah candles. The only way to defeat them is to have the biggest, scariest goblin light all of the candles. Of course Hershel is up for the challenge. He then moves into the synagogue and each night he encounters a different goblin each one scarier than the one before. He beats them by out witting them, and they let him lights the candles. On the eighth day Hershel encounters the scariest goblin of all. By using his smarts, Hershel tricks the goblin into lighting all the candles, thus breaking the spell and allowing the town to celebrate Hanukkah. The main ideas from this book are to be proud of your religion and do not let people stop you from celebrating it. I would without a doubt recommend this book because it teaches children to be prideful and also teaches about Hanukkah. I really loved this book because of how Hershel used his wits and not force to over power the goblins.

Concluding statement: Always be proud do not be afraid.
50 reviews1 follower
September 27, 2016
1. Book summary, in your own words (3 pts)
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins is a Caldecott Honor Book. It is about a man named Hershel who is traveling to a town to celebrate Hanukkah, but when he gets there he is told they do not celebrate Hanukkah. They are not allowed to because of the goblins. Hershel has to outsmart the goblins in order to be able to celebrate Hanukkah.
2. Grade level, interest level, lexile (1 pt)
This would be a great book for K-3rd graders, It is a great story, full of fun and adventure. It is also fairly easy to read.
3. Appropriate classroom use (subject area) (1 pt)
I would use this book for the folk tales, fables, and myths section of my reading portion of the class.
4. Individual students who might benefit from reading (1 pt)
This would be a good book for students who are interested in goblins.
5. Small group use (literature circles) (1 pt)
I would use this book in literature circles for the students to read aloud and to discuss the details in the book. I would also have the group answer questions about the book.
6. Whole class use (read aloud) (1 pt)
This would be a book I would read aloud to the class for story time. I would also talk to the class about Hanukkah to teach the students about culture.
7. Related books in genre/subject or content area (1 pt)
Hanukkah Bear by Eric Kimmel
Happy Hanukkah, Curious George by H. A. Rey
8. Multimedia connections (audio books, movie) available (1 pt)
There is an audiobook for this book.
Profile Image for Phil J.
701 reviews54 followers
December 11, 2016
Goblins are messing with Hanukkah! It's so bad that no one is even making latkes this season! What shall we do? If only we had a trickster hero to help us!

This is a great, fun story written at about a Kindergarten level, although readers of any age would enjoy it. It includes some great Hanukkah information, too. I thought it was refreshing that the illustrator, Trina Schart Hyman is best-known for the Christian-themed classic Saint George and the Dragon. Clearly a broad-minded artist.

My Scandinavian ancestors would rise up against me if I failed to mention that the hard-boiled egg trick is awfully similar to a cheese trick in the Peter Christian Asbjornson and Jorgen Moe classic "The Boy Who Had An Eating Match with a Troll." Also, the pickle jar trick is awfully similar to the African/Indian monkey-peanuts trick. Still, folk tales are not about "who thought of it first" so much as "who had fun telling it." And this book is fun.
18 reviews1 follower
September 10, 2015
In the children's book written by Eric Kimmel, "Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins," Hershel of Ostropol, arrives in a village on the first night of Hanukkah. However, the villagers have been banned from celebrating Hanukkah by goblins that haunt the old synagogue at the top of the hill. Hershel out smarts the goblins using only some eggs, a dreidl and a menorah. This book teaches the importance of holidays such as Hanukkah.
I think the illustrations demonstrate the village and what the goblins look like. The pictures look real especially because of the use of color and dimness of the illustrations. I do think that this book can be hard to read and is probably directed towards older children since there are a lot of words and the vocabulary is somewhat advanced. The book was also scary and goblins could frighten young children. I think that the author should have shortened the story and made it kid friendly.
Profile Image for Laura.
11 reviews1 follower
June 3, 2017
I picked this book because I want my classroom library to be as diverse and inclusive as possible. With so many books centered around Christmas traditions, it's important not to forget other holidays celebrated in winter. Since one of my best friends of nearly 20 years is Jewish, a Hanukkah story seemed like an obvious place to start expanding my collection.

For a picture book, Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins is a longer read than most, but the story flows well and easily. The illustrations seamlessly blend both realistic people & settings with imaginative goblin creatures. The illustrator's use of color, and lack of color really help to bring the dusk and nighttime settings alive. I really enjoyed this unusual Hanukkah story.
Profile Image for Katie Fitzgerald.
Author 4 books202 followers
October 5, 2017
This is one of my favorites from the entire challenge thus far. The goblins have outlawed Hanukkah, but Hershel is too smart to let them get away with it. Each night, he tricks a different goblin into letting him light the menorah, until finally he wins the holiday back from the evil creatures. The story is fun, not scary, and kids learn about dreidels, menorahs, and other Hanukkah traditions as part of the plot. The illustrations of the goblins are cartoonish, showing they are no real threat, and I love Hershel’s warm, friendly, and playful facial expressions. This book would pair well with How the Grinch Stole Christmas for a joint Christmas-Hanukkah program.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
839 reviews59 followers
December 31, 2017
It's difficult to choose, but Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins might just be my favorite picture book on the holiday. I remember my siblings and I listening raptly as my mom read it year after year. Hershel's cunning methods of fooling the goblins that wish to halt all Hanukkah celebrations in a rural village never failed to inspire our wonder and laughter. As I reread it in adulthood, I can still hear my mom's distinct voice for Hershel and his brave acts.
Profile Image for SamZ.
817 reviews
August 30, 2016
1990 Caldecott Honor - Favorite Illustration: When Hershel is playing driedel with the red goblin. I love the look of frustration on his face as he loses, time after time, to Hershel.
This was a fun story and I LOVED the hilarious depictions of the goblins. The king was a bit on the creepy side but the rest were funny! I also enjoyed the small author's note, but I wish there had been more info, since Jewish fairy tales aren't as common as the more mainstream Grimms.
Profile Image for Lesley Looper.
2,189 reviews66 followers
June 2, 2009
This is a neat Jewish folktale with neat illustrations. Hershal shows faith, courage, and cleverness in outwitting the goblins in this story. The goblin illustrations are fun, and make it an especially cute story to read between Halloween and Hanukkah. :)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 317 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.