Hanukkah at Valley Forge

Hanukkah at Valley Forge

Stephen Krensky, illustrated by Greg Harlin


Krensky, S. 2006. Hanukkah at Valley Forge. NY: Penguin.


On a cold winter night General Washington surveyed his troops, worrying about the state of his men in the war. As he wandered about the camp, he found a young soldier huddled over a flame in a hut, whispering words he didn’t understand. The soldier was startled by him, but explained what he was doing. In his homeland of Poland he would have to hide what he was doing, but he was celebrating the first day of Hanukkah.

The soldier told General Washington the story of Hanukkah, the battles that the Israelites won, and how they survived eight days on only enough oil for one day of light. Washington was touched by this story and the miracles that came to a people who needed it. The story of Hanukkah brightened Washington’s spirit that evening.

Quantitative Summary:

ATOS Book Level:             4.0

Interest Level:   Lower Grades (LG K-3)

Qualitative Summary:

This picture book focuses on a story that is based on true historical events: George Washington did mention to a Jewish merchant who he had lunch with that he had learned the story of Hanukkah from a soldier at Valley Forge. This story imagines the dialogue of George Washington based on some of his writings, and it fictionalizes the scenario of his learning the story of Hanukkah to fit in with the narrative of the war and how it may have affected him.

The narrative structure of the book is of Middle low complexity; it features a significant flashback, telling the story of the Maccabees and interspersing Washington and the soldier’s dialogue. The book distinguishes between these narratives by background colors of the pages, blue for the current time, and orange for the time of the Maccabees. The pages have a few paragraphs of text each, and may be best as a adult-guided reading book.

Curriculum Ties

This is a great way to tie holidays into history curriculum. It’s also a good look at the history of Judaism in the scheme of world religions.


English/Language Arts

1.0   General Reading Processes: Comprehension: Students will use a variety of strategies to understand what they read (construct meaning).


1. Develop comprehension skills through exposure to a variety of print and nonprint texts, including traditional print and electronic texts

a. Listen to critically, read, and discuss texts representing diversity in content, culture, authorship, and perspective, including areas such as race, gender, disability, religion, and socioeconomic background

b. *Read a minimum of 25 self-selected and/or assigned books or book equivalents representing various genres

c. Discuss reactions to and ideas/information gained from reading experiences with adults and peers in both formal and informal situations

3.0 Comprehension of Literary Text: Students will read, comprehend, interpret, analyze, and evaluate literary text.



Author website: http://www.stephenkrensky.com/