• Putting Books to Work

Putting Books to Work: Selina Alko's DADDY CHRISTMAS AND HANUKKAH MAMA

by Kathy Prater
December 12, 2012
DADDY CHRISTMAS AND HANUKKAH MAMA (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012)
Written and illustrated by Selina Alko
Pre-K through Grade 3

DADDY CHRISTMAS AND HANUKKAH MAMA provides a good introduction to the differences traditions can make in families.

Sadie, the young girl in this story, has parents who are from two different backgrounds. The story shows a marvelous blend of traditions that honor both parents’ beliefs. Sadie’s father celebrates Christmas and her mother celebrates Hanukkah. The story explains how the two were able to mix the two together to teach Sadie about both.

Each page has marvelous illustrations which show both holidays being celebrated in conjunction. Sadie’s dad makes latkes while her mom hangs stockings. In this story, Santa’s favorite treat is not cookies, but rather latkes. When they decorate, the family uses both reindeer and Queen Esther. Candy canes adorn the menorah branches. Caroling includes songs from both holidays. The book ends with a look at the timeline of all other holidays celebrated by the family, which includes a mix of both parents’ backgrounds.

DADDY CHRISTMAS AND HANUKKAH MAMA is a playful and intricate blending of the two very different holidays and provides a great example of acceptance of other people’s beliefs.

Cross-curricular connections: Social Studies, Art, Math, English

Ideas for Classroom Use:

Christmas Around the World

The purpose of this activity is to introduce students to many different cultures and areas with which they may not be familiar. For older students, this can be a research project for individuals or small groups, and for younger students, this can be a class project looking at a different culture every day. Ask students what holiday is coming up soon and acknowledge their answers. Some areas may have an answer of Hanukkah, some Christmas, and some may even talk about other holidays, such as St. Lucia’s Day. Then, ask the students if everyone in the world celebrates the same holiday they do during the winter. Allow children time to answer thoughtfully.

After this discussion, read the book DADDY CHRISTMAS AND HANUKKAH MAMA. Ask students to compare the events in the book with the events in their own life. Do they have the same traditions or different ones? Record their thoughts for further use.

Explain to the children that not all people celebrate the same holidays. Ask if the students know anyone who celebrates differently than they do. Take note of any alternate holidays mentioned. As a class, or in small groups/individually, look into other countries’ process of holidays. Some suggestions to study are Diwali in India, St. Lucia’s Day in Italy, and Las Posadas in Mexico. Discover the types of decorations used, the foods that are eaten, the season the holiday is in, etc.

Make a poster comparing the different traditions in each country. Showcase this information in a holiday party to teach other people about the different ways we can celebrate during the winter months.

Hanukkah vs. Christmas Graph

The purpose of this activity is to use the illustrations in DADDY CHRISTMAS AND HANUKKAH MAMA to chart the different items that are Hanukkah traditions and Christmas traditions. Using a t-chart, list all the items found in the illustrations that are Christmas on one side and then all the Hanukkah items on the other.

Students will then transfer this information in a graph using colors appropriate for each holiday. The Christmas graph could be in red and green, while the Hanukkah one could in blue and gold. Compare the two holidays to see if the family mixed the traditions evenly or if one had more items than the other.

Some items may be unfamiliar to students and may need justification as to why they belong in each column.

Alternate methods would be to give a group of students illustrations from different pages to use to compare. Then the groups’ results could be compared for consistency throughout the book.


The purpose of this activity is to engage students in discussion with their families about Christmas traditions. Have students talk to their families about what traditions they use during their winter holiday. Send home a list of similar topics for Christmas Around the World, and have students list the foods they typically share, the types of presents that are given, the activities they usually do, and where the traditions started. Encourage dialogue between family members about the family’s cultural backgrounds.

Have students create a book about their family’s traditions to share with the class. Older students can create their own storyline and younger students can dictate the story to a teacher to write down.

As a culmination for this project, invite parents to bring in a food or other item that they feel showcases their family’s tradition. Have students share their books and items to the class to promote acceptance of other cultures.

Additional Resources and Activities:

Christmas Around the World This website is a compilation of information by countries regarding their winter holidays. The explanations are easy for younger students to understand and provide a variety of information about each country’s traditions. This site will be a good starting point for teaching students about different winter festivals.

Staple-less Books
This website provides a customizable staple-less book for students to create their traditions books. The students can type in the stories and add a digital image or print it out to add hand drawn illustrations. The book has directions for folding and is easy to use.

How We Celebrate Hanukkah
This website provides a quick look at the holiday of Hanukkah and provides information to adults needing to explain the holiday to children. The site provides an overview, blessings, traditions, history, and activities that can be used to explain the traditions. A Hanukkah book list is also included with both adult and children’s books listed.

Kathy Prater is a Reading Specialist who works with students with dyslexia, an Adjunct Professor at Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Mississippi, and a full time pre-kindergarten teacher at Starkville Academy in Starkville, Mississippi. Her passions include reading, writing, tending her flock of 15 chickens, and helping students at all levels to find motivation for lifelong reading and learning. She believes that every child can become a successful reader if given the right tools and encouragement.

© 2012 Kathy Prater. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.

Reviews of New Holiday Books

Putting Books to Work: Jan Brett's HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
Annual ConferenceJoin Us!Engaging the Adolescent LearnerResource Catalog