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The Canadian Jewish News

Hanukkah Counts Too by Howard Shapiro, illustrated by Dawn M. Landrum, Trafford Publishing For Young Children.

Tupelo doesn’t have the Chanukah spirit this year. All her friends are getting ready for Christmas, singing carols and putting up Christmas trees.

It’s not fair, Tupelo thinks, why does she have to be different from everybody else?

“I just wished we celebrated Christmas like just about everyone else in the world,” she tells her mother, father, brother and cousin, Ron, the cool guy in the dark clothes who wears his sunglasses even in the house. “All we do on Christmas Day is eat at a Chinese restaurant.”

Does Tupelo’s story sound familiar? Maybe you feel this way, or one of your best friends does?

Just remember what Ron tells Tupelo in Hanukkah Counts Too: “Celebrating a different holiday is nothing to be ashamed of!”

After all, it’s got to be a special day. Why else are there 16 different ways to spell Chanukah, Hanukkah, or Chanuka or — well, you get the picture.

Hartland Reviews

Title: Destructo Boy! and Spillerella: We Are Who We Are 
Author: Howard Shapiro lI!ustrator: Kelly Carter
Pub!isher and/or Distributor: Trafford Publishing
Pub!isher Website:
Pages: 24
ISBN: 1-4120-9492-5
Price: $10.99
Publishing Date: 2006
Reader: Bob Spear
Rating: 4 hearts

Tom is clumsy and sister Tupelo spills everything. Their parents nickname them Destructo Boy and Spilleralla. A bully on the school bus hears their names called out by their mom when they leave for school He begins to tease and deride them One day Tom lets him know that they are happy and proud with whom they are The author has an excellent non-violent way of dealing with bullies This is an excellent book for anger management and self worth problems. We rated it four hearts.

Title: Hanukkah Counts Too! Author: Howard Shapiro 
Illustrator: Dawn M. Landrum
Publisher and/or Distributor: Trafford Publishing
Publisher Website:
Pages: 22
ISBN: 1-4120-7274-3
Price: $12.95
Publishing Date: 2005
Reader: Bob Spear
Rating: 4 hearts

Tom and Tupelo (brother and sister) are the only Jewish children on their block and in their school. At Hanukkah time, Tupelo has an identity crisis, wishing her family could celebrate Christmas because that’s all her friends talk about. Cousin Ron helps out with a pep talk about the importance of their traditions and how maybe her friends can help her celebrate Hanukkah Tupelo finally understands and accepts her heritage.

This is a book about not being afraid or ashamed of being proud of your heritage. It show kids there is room for more than one religion or one set of traditions. We rated it four hearts.

He fills void with Hanukkah book for kids

Robin Rombach / Post -Gazette

Howard Shapiro, of Moon, with his children’s
book, “Hanukkah Counts Too!”

By Dan Gigler Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In the Talmud, the traditional book of Jewish law and custom, it states, “Whoever teaches his son teaches not only his son but also his son’s son, and so on to the end of generations.”

Howard Shapiro didn’t have anything quite that deep on his mind when he set out to teach his 6-year-old Catholic sons about Hanukkah, but in doing so he may have upheld that Talmudic tenet, however inadvertently.

“I took the kids to the library to find a Hanukkah book and couldn’t find any at the Carnegie library that weren’t like 20 or 30 years old, so I figured I’d try and write one,” Shapiro, of Moon, explained.

So he did. After getting in touch with Trafford publishing, a Canadian outfit that specializes in helping authors to self-publish books, he created a children’s book called “Hanukkah Counts Too!”

Self-publishing is not an inexpensive endeavor. A controller at a Downtown graphic design firm, Mr. Shapiro spent about $1,700 to produce the book, and so far he has sold about 1,000 copies. It can be purchased at the Web site and at some local Giant Eagle and Borders bookstores for $12.95.

Illustrated by Louisiana-based artist Dawn Landrum, the book tells the story of Tom and his sister, Tupelo (a reference to a Van Morrison song), who are the only two Jewish kids in their elementary school class. The siblings are feeling left out during the Christmas season.

An excerpt: After a slight pause, Tupelo said, “All of my friends have Christmas and that’s all they talk about. Their tree, the presents, leaving cookies for Santa, that’s all I hear about. All we do on Christmas Day is eat at a Chinese restaurant.”

Tom and Tupelo’s Uncle Ron, a young man with, as Mr. Shapiro said, “Dylan-esque” cool, sets the kids straight on the importance of the holiday in Jewish heritage.

“Celebrating Hanukkah is a true blessing, Tupelo. I know it’s Christmas 24-7 everywhere you look, but it’s cool to be different and not just part of the crowd. But more importantly, our history and heritage matters. Lighting the candles is something very special and we should never forget why we light them.” Tonight marks the fifth night of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights that commemorates the retaking of the temple in Jerusalem from Syrian-led forces and is observed by eight nights of lighting candles in a Menorah.

Tom and Tupelo’s experiences are loosely based on those of Mr. Shapiro and his sister, who were the only Jews in their class at Atlantic Avenue Elementary School in the early 1970s.

“Growing up in Forest Hills at that time was not like it may have been in Squirrel Hill or Mt. Lebanon,” in terms of religious diversity, Mr. Shapiro said. “I remember being frustrated that our house had a chimney, but no fireplace. I couldn’t figure out how Santa Claus was going to get down the chimney,” he laughed.

Mr. Shapiro agreed that sometimes Hanukkah’s importance is somewhat inflated if only because of its proximity to Christmas, as Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover are all considered holier holidays than Hanukkah. But he said you can’t quite comprehend that when you’re a kid feeling slightly isolated at this time of year.

“When you’re a Jewish kid, you feel like there is this cool party going on and you’re not invited.”

Mr. Shapiro’s own sons, Lucas Nikita and Sammy Sasha, will, be invited to both parties.

The boys were adopted as infants six years ago. from Elista, in the Kalmykia state in Russia, the only predominately Buddhist region in Europe. Elista is about 600 miles south of Moscow near the Caspian Sea. Mr. Shapiro’s wife, Gina, is Catholic and so the boys, too, are being raised in the church, I though with healthy exposure to Judaism.

Mr. Shapiro said that the experience of writing the book and teaching his sons about his religion have helped reaffirm his sense of heritage, or, as a Jewish proverb says, “As you teach, you also learn.”

Dan Gigler can be reached at or at 724-375-6815.

Review by Roberta Mintz Levine

Battling a Bully

Coraopolis author Howard Shapiro ( likes to help kids deal with the hard stuff that he remembers suffering through — like being bullied, the topic of his latest book, Destructo Boy & Spillerella… We Are Who We Are! ($9.95, at local bookstores, through Amazon or Trafford Publishing, paperback). The story, presented in a comic/graphic-novel style, is about 8 year-old-twins Tom and Tupelo, who were given nick-names (Destructo Boy and Spillerella) for their foibles. When the school bully learns the nicknames, though, he meanly uses them to tease the twins. Shapiro, whose previous Tom and Tupelo book, Hanukkah Counts Too! about being a minority during holiday time, takes a very straightforward approach to these issues. His direct way of storytelling and the memories he shares of his own experiences are refreshing and useful to young readers. He just tells it like it is.

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