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Home > Children's Books > The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin

cover of Never Say a Mean Word Again

Available Now

at your local bookseller or your favorite online book retailer.

The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin:
A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah
by: Martha Seif Simpson
illustrated by: Durga Yael Bernhard
Subject(s): Age(s) / Grade level / Lexile:

Juvenile Fiction: Holidays & Celebrations / Hanukkah

6 & up / 1st–2nd / Lexile
: 530L

Format: Size / page count:


8" × 10" / 32 pages

ISBN: Date available:


Available now




“This dreidel doesn’t work!” the father had cried. “What do you mean? How can a dreidel not work?” the shopkeeper asked. It was certainly the most beautiful spinning top the shopkeeper had ever seen, with magical golden letters on its sides. But it just would not spin for two spoiled children who insisted on owning it! Later, the shopkeeper decides to try it one last time: would it spin for another child, one who carried the true spirit of Hanukkah in his heart?

In this beautiful holiday story by award-winning author Martha Simpson, and brought to life by the imaginative illustrations of award-winning illustrator D. Yael Bernhard, the happiness and joy of the Hanukkah miracle will warm the heart of young and old alike with its simple message: wonders still occur for those who are ready for them. Included is a useful appendix that explains Hanukkah, and an explanation on how to play the dreidel game.

Videos Related to the Book (hide/show)

The Book Trailer Video for
The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah

Watch the video below to get a visual summary of the pages in the book.

Awards & Honors
  • Award-Winning Finalist in the “Children's Religious” category of the 2015 USA “Best Book” Awards
  • Finalist in the 2015 Benjamin Frankin Awards in the category “Interior Design (3 or more Color; Children’s/Young Adult)”


  • Parents can download a 288KB pdf “Discussion Guide” for this book here. The Guide is usually used in a classroom or group learning environment, but this one includes a wonderful crossword puzzle devised by the author, Martha Seif Simpson, based on events and characters in the book. An answer key is included. The crossword and its key are the last two pages of the pdf file.
  • There is also a coloring page, in a 336KB jpg file, that parents or teachers can print out. The coloring page is of a large, wonderfully patterned dreidel, taken directly from the beautiful paintings of illustrator D. Yael Bernhard. Of course, the coloring page is deprived of Ms. Bernhard's lovely colors, but children can either refer to the book or use their imaginations to find just the right colors for this object of great significance to many people of the Jewish faith. Click here for this file in jpg format in a new tab or window, which you can then print out. Remember: it is best to save the file to your computer and then print it out, rather than printing it out from the web page display itself.

Reviews (hide/show)

“Award-winning author Martha Simpson pens a touching and imaginative story about a dreidel that won’t spin and the child who harnesses the true spirit of Hanukkah to fix the problem. Let the games begin!”
from the website, from a review by Emma Singer on her list of “10 Children’s Books About Hanukkah to Celebrate the Festival of Lights”

“There are some messages that just never get old. And the message in The Dreidel that Wouldn't Spin is twofold: first, that money is not everything; the second, that a true heart can work miracles. . . .

The Dreidel that Wouldn't Spin is a feel-good story that families will be able to share and enjoy year after year. It perfectly encapsulates the message of this minor holiday. The illustrations by Durga Yael Bernhard complement and capture utterly the text throughout, with lots of spot art to keep the child engaged while the story develops.

The end of the book offers a truncated but effective explanation of the origins of the Hanukkah miracle as well as information about dreidels, what the Hebrew letters mean, and how to play the dreidel game. One of the best Hanukkah books to come out in years. Like the magical dreidel in the story, The Dreidel that Wouldn't Spin is a treasure.
New York Journal of Books, from a review by Lisa Rojany

“A shopkeeper anticipates a good profit when he purchases an enticing dreidel from an unknown peddler who cautions ‘the miracle of Hanukkah cannot be bought.’ Hence the story unfolds as greed and entitlement contrast with the simple pleasure of viewing alluring goods. Guess what? Inner beauty prevails.”
Jewish Family Times, chosen as one of their “Best Picks for Hanukkah 2015 ~ 5776”

“A heartwarming tale of the triumph of generosity over greed and the true spirit of the holiday season, The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah has the makings of a children’s classic. This sweet story of a glorious Hanukkah dreidel that spins only for children pure of heart includes charming illustrations sure to capture young children’s interest. . . . Author Martha Seif Simpson’s unembellished tale allows the message of the transformative power of generosity to shine through. . . . Durga Yael Bernhard’s illustrations are a perfect complement to the simplicity of the tale Simpson relates; she includes multiple images per page that are sure to delight young children who enjoy perusing picture books on their own. . . . [This book] should have a place of honor next to the Hanukkah menorah in Jewish homes. But it also should have a treasured spot in the homes of non-Jewish families, as it demonstrates the miracle of the holiday season—indeed, of every time of year: that giving truly is better than receiving.”
ForeWord Reviews, from a review by Nancy Walker

“K-Gr 2– In this gentle parable, a peddler gives a splendorous Hanukkah dreidel to the greedy owner of a toy shop with the admonishment that ‘...the miracle of Hanukkah cannot be bought’… Folkloric watercolor illustrations in a pale palette are appropriately soft in tone while images of the toys offering their own expressive impressions of the goings-on inject a bit of humor. A lovely choice for those wishing to circumvent the more commercial aspects of the holiday.”
School Library Journal, from a review by Teri Markson

“A child’s innocent appreciation for life’s small wonders transforms a shopkeeper’s business attitude during the busy selling season of Hanukkah. The owner of the small toyshop is immediately intrigued with the potential of a large profit if he can sell a peddler’s oversized, elaborately painted dreidel … [Author Martha] Simpson uses familiar European folk-tale motifs, which [illustrator] Bernhard matches with [gouache] paintings of an Old World setting; both illustrate how humility outshines greed and arrogance. Backmatter [i.e. the Appendix] explains the real miracle of Hanukkah and the holiday’s significance as well as rules for playing dreidel. A sweet original tale with a timeless, though not holiday-specific message (Picture book. 5-7)”
Kirkus Reviews

“The colorful drawings by Bernhard (Never Say a Mean Word Again) evoke Judaism’s Eastern European past…”
Publishers Weekly

“What an interesting Hanukkah story which stresses the real meaning of the holiday. This is not a story that explains what Hanukkah is but rather what it means by using a dreidel and a simple children’s Hanukkah game. Bright pictures and simple wording make this story easy to read and enjoy, even if you don’t celebrate Hanukkah! Better yet, at the back of the book is an explanation of what Hanukkah celebrates and how to play the dreidel game. This is a story the whole family can enjoy and it leaves plenty of room to discuss why the dreidel wouldn’t spin for all of the children.”
—from a “Top Pick” review on the website

“This tale about a striking jeweled dreidel that will not spin for selfish, materialistic children, but does so for the one child who appreciates it, is a charming story that could grow into a family favorite. The typeface is large and appealing to a beginning chapter-book reader, and the colorful illustrations convey an Eastern European sense of time and place — including peddlers and storekeepers (all wearing kippot or hats) and horse-drawn carriages with small-town appeal . . . The shopkeeper comes to realize that the miracle of Chanukah cannot be bought as the tale provides a noteworthy conclusion: Wonders still happen for those who can appreciate them.”
—from a review in the Jewish Journal
The Dreidel That Wouldn't Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah receives fine drawings by Durga Yael Bernhard as it tells of two children who insist they have to own a dreidel that won't spin for them. But will it spin for one who holds the real spirit of Hannukah? It's a lovely seasonal Hannukah tale for ages 5 and older who have good reading skills or parental read-aloud assistance — the latter being the better choice for fully exploring the story's underlying message
Children’s Bookwatch (Midwest Book Review)

Leading Links (hide/show)

Pages 20-11 from the book “Never Say a Mean Word Again”, written by Jacqueline Jules and illustrated by Durga Yael Bernhard

A sample of a page written by Martha Seif Simpson and illustrated by Durga Yael
Bernhard for the book The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah

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