Saturday, November 10, 2012

Jeremy's Dreidel

I love Jeremy's Dreidel.  I love it for being a Hanukkah picture book story that teaches the religious and historical importance of the holiday (instead of it just being about receiving presents for eight days, and instead of it just being about the oil lasting for eight days, it reinforces the victory of the Maccabees over the army of Antiochus).  I love it for teaching that dreidels made in Israel say "A Great Miracle Happened Here," while dreidels made outside of Israel say "A Great Miracle Happened There."  (I love details that go above and beyond the standard facts that go into holiday books).  I love it for including instructions on how to make the different dreidels made by the children at the dreidel workshop (including one made from recycled materials and one teaching the science of optical illusions).  And I love it for the positive portrayal of blindness, as represented by Jeremy's father. 

When Jeremy attends the dreidel workshop at his local Jewish Community Center, he decides to make a braille version for his father.  While chatting with his classmates, Jeremy talks about his father, who uses a cane (and a small GPS system!) to successfully go about his day. He uses a Braille laptop (and can tell if Jeremy is really doing his homework or is playing a computer game!), and listens to audio text messages on his cell phone.  Jeremy's father also enjoys singing in the JCC choir and reading (sometimes in Braille and sometimes listening to audiobooks).  He has a full time job.  Jeremy's father doesn't "look blind" (because being blind is about vision, not about how you look), and can recognize Jeremy's friends by their distinct voices.

As you can tell, this is a *very* modern and positive affirmation of contemporary life as a blind person.  Blindness/low vision is so often portrayed as a tragedy, but Jeremy's father is authentically shown as living a full life as any other modern day dad.   Yes, there are challenges and concerns; Jeremy gets a bit frustrated with his classmates's constant questions and misconceptions and upset when his teacher makes the decision to put the finished dreidels in a glass case (which is quickly changed once Jeremy explains why he's upset). But overall, this is an excellent and needed portrayal of modern day life with blindness, as well as a unique addition to Hanukkah picture book collections.

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