Mohrbooks Literary Agency
Published by
Dial Books for Young Readers (2016-10-04)
Current material
Final Pages
Original language
Children’s / Teenage fiction: General fiction


by ben Izzy, Joel

At last a great American Hanukkah story! This very funny, very touching novel of growing up Jewish has the makings of a holiday classic.

One lousy miracle. Is that too much to ask?

Evidently so for Joel, as he tries to survive Hannukah, 1971 in the suburbs of the suburbs of Los Angeles (or, as he calls it, “The Land of Shriveled Dreams”). That’s no small task when you’re a “seriously funny-looking” twelve-year-old magician who dreams of being his own superhero: Normalman. And Joel’s a long way from that as the only Jew at Bixby School, where his attempts to make himself disappear fail spectacularly. Home is no better, with a family that’s not just mortifyingly embarrassing but flat-out broke.

That’s why Joel’s betting everything on these eight nights, to see whether it’s worth believing in God or miracles or anything at all. Armed with his favorite jokes, some choice Yiddish words, and a suitcase full of magic tricks, he’s scrambling to come to terms with the world he lives in—from hospitals to Houdini to the Holocaust—before the last of the candles burns out.

No wonder his head is spinning: He’s got dreidels on the brain. And little does he know that what’s actually about to happen to him and his family this Hanukkah will be worse than he’d feared. And better than he could have imagined.

Available rights (1)

Language Territory Type Vendor Status
German World All

Mohrbooks Literary Agency
Annelie Geissler

Available View on Rightsdesk


This fresh, fast-paced read is a must purchase for any middle school collection. While this is certainly a feel-good story, it does not gloss over the darker pieces of Jewish history. Joel’s encounter with a Holocaust survivor resonates far beyond the final night of Hanukkah as Joel comes to recognize that life, religion, and miracles may not be as clearly defined as he originally thought. Highly Recommended!

Review: Libraries Unlimited, starred review

A recognizable middle school antihero confides in readers in an empathetic, funny, and heartwarming story that cuts across the expected grain. Set during Hanukkah, this wonderful novel is full of universal dilemmas and realistic pre-teen situations at home and at school. ... Dreidels on the Brain adheres honestly to the voice of the 12- year-old narrator, who begins to understand the world through his chatty, breezy, and humorous dissection of events. This book is a miracle of Jewish identity for Hanukkah and throughout the year.

Review: Jewish Book Counsel

...Joel’s witty, tongue-in-cheek narration will keep readers turning the pages. Loosely autobiographical and packed with anecdotes about Jewish culture and Hanukkah history, this never-didactic tale is a welcome addition to the canon of holiday stories.

Review: Booklist

Finalist for 2016 National Jewish Book Award Winner of 2017 Sydney Taylor Book Award Honors

Quote: Dial Books

Warm, humorous musings on and explanations of Jewish culture . . . [a] moving coming-of-age journey.

Review: Publishers Weekly

Relatable and humorous. . . . A coming-of-age novel steeped in tradition [that] will appeal to anyone who has felt different and those who believe—or want to believe—in miracles.

Review: VOYA

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