7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #721: Featuring Kevin Hawkes

h1 December 13th, 2020 by jules

“Big or small, the task would suit Nate either way ….”
(Click to enlarge spread and read text in its entirety)


Today, I’ve got some illustrations from The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol (Candlewick, September 2020), a new picture book from Arthur A. Levine and Kevin Hawkes. This is what Levine describes as a pourquoi tale about the tradition of presents at Hanukkah. (You can read or listen here to a wonderful NPR interview with Levine about the book.)

Nate Gadol is Levine’s original mythical creation — a “great big spirit,” pictured above, who makes things stretch for families in need. He made a “tiny bit of oil last eight days and nights in the far-off long ago,” but he also will keep your flower fresh for longer, keep a dam strong in a storm, or even help you hold a long note while singing — if your life depended on it.

Nate is particularly concerned with the Glaser family, who emigrate from Europe to America and spend all their money on the passage. Nate is there to multiply the tiny bit of chocolate Mrs. Glaser has for her family, which is much smaller than she had hoped it would be. And he’s there to assist the family as they themselves do all they can for their neighbors, the O’Malleys, who have a sick baby during the winter of 1881. Nate—a large presence, always looming unseen in the air near the family—watches as Mr. Glaser sells a bench he carves and gives the money to the O’Malleys. The Glasers now have no money left over for Hanukkah sweets.

But then Nate meets an old friend, named Santa (yes, there’s some Christmas in this book too), and they strike a deal. I don’t want to give away the entire story here, but it results in the beginning of a new tradition — presents outside each Glaser’s bedroom door. That’s right: Not just Hanukkah chocolate but “boxes with ribbons and shiny paper too.” After this, “the idea of Hanukkah presents really caught on,” Levine adding: “I mean, what could be bad about presents?”

Levine spins this story with style. The text is especially rich with moments of vivid figurative language: “Nate Gadol was a great big spirit who had eyes as shiny as golden coins and a smile that was lantern-bright” and “the wind howled through the cracks like an angry cat.” Hawkes’s textured acrylic illustrations expertly capture the loving Glaser family (the body language throughout is particularly expressive), and Nate is unforgettable in his big blue coat, copper-colored hat, and leather pouch draped over his shoulder. (Betsy Bird calls him a “snazzy dresser.” Indeed!) And all throughout the book a type of gold foil is used to accentuate Nate and the magic he spins — subtle touches of gold (it’s not overused, promise!) that sparkle from his pouch, his hair, his eyes, and his hands when he works his miracles, large and small.

In a closing note, Levine writes that “present giving on Hanukkah is a peculiarly American innvotation” and that, even though as a child he received presents at Hanukkah, he felt:

… the challenge of being a Jewish child during Christmas. It was hard not to feel what we now call ‘erasure’ as advertisements, holiday specials, and school concerts made the time of year seem like one reserved for Christians. … In my memories … I have often wished that we could build up a bit more mythology too. … I wanted to do that with a story.

Here are a couple more spreads from this entertaining new addition to the holiday canon, a book I think readers will embrace and a story that will be read for many Hanukkahs (and Christmases) to come.


“A happy handshake and a few minutes later, each friend had helped the other. …”
(Click to enlarge spread and read text in its entirety)


“After that, the idea of Hanukkah presents really caught on …”
(Click to enlarge spread and read text in its entirety)


(Click cover to enlarge)


THE HANUKKAH MAGIC OF NATE GADOL. Text copyright © 2020 by Arthur A. Levine. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Kevin Hawkes and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

* * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’s Kicks * * *

I hope all of you out there are safe and healthy.

1) Hearing happy news for my friends.

2) Work is starting to slow down, and I see a holiday break ahead.

3) I started reading Hilary McKay’s The Skylarks’ War out loud to my daughters, and I’m really glad I did. It is an excellent novel and a wonderful read-aloud.



4) Walks.

5) Playing Sufjan Stevens’s epic (and sometimes bizarre and sometimes beautiful and sometimes both) 2012 Christmas album.

6) And Sam Phillips’s wonderful holiday EP is streaming now. Have I ever played this below for you? It’s her rendition of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” She puts it in a minor key, and it’s gorgeous. (But then I’m also fond of angel imagery, and she has chosen just the right verses here.)



You should also hear what she does to “Jingle Bells.”

7) The upcoming Horn Book cover, illustrated by Oge Mora, the 2020 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards winner in the category of Picture Books:



What are YOUR kicks this week?

6 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #721: Featuring Kevin Hawkes”

  1. I was just talking with a friend about this book so it’s really fun to find it here this morning. I love Hawkes illustrations and Levine’s Nate is terrific.
    Jules, enjoy the upcoming break and your walks.
    My kicks:
    1. Weekly writing check-ins.
    2. A haiku was accepted for Frogpond, a journal of the Haikyu Society of America.
    3. Haiku meeting with Portland haukists via Zoom.
    4. Sparkly lights.
    5. Started The Murmur of Bees.
    6. Buster continues to heal.
    7. Phone conversations with nieces. And my niece that was so ill last year? She and her husband just bought their first home in Indianan. So happy for them.
    Have a great week.

  2. I do love this book, Jules. Arthur was on a Watchung Bookseller event earlier this week talking about it. I will have to give the NPR episode a listen. The Sam Phillips song is glorious.

    Jone: Congratulations on your haiku acceptance.

    My kicks:
    1. A contractor came back and finished the skirting around my porch and re-attached some of my siding.
    2. I’ve been trying out the USPS online shipping and pick-up from home. It works! Some packages I sent to Maine on Monday arrived yesterday.
    3. I had groceries delivered.
    4. Re-reading the Outlander series
    5. Reading picture books
    6. The first big snow yesterday
    7. Playing, running and laughing with Mulan

    Hope everyone has a super week.

  3. Love the contrast of the gold highlights in the illustrations here, and Nate does indeed look like a snazzy dresser.

    Jules – hooray for walks and holiday music and work slowing down. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear is one of my favorite carols and I had not heard that version, just lovely.

    Jone – so happy Buster continues to heal, congrats on your haiku being accepted for publication! What wonderful news about your niece.

    Margie – how cool to hear the USPS online pickup/shipping works (I may need to utilize that soon). And hooray for picture books, snow and playing with Mulan!

    My kicks this week:
    1) Meeting some work deadlines that were hanging over my head.
    2) Waking up yesterday to bright sunshine instead of grey drizzle. Hooray for vitamin D!
    3) Letters from far away places.
    4) Sent a Secret Santa gift for same day delivery that was a hit, and having the happy accident of it being the recipient’s birthday too.
    5) Wrapping up my re-watch of The West Wing and soaking up that alternate reality.
    6) Putting up Christmas lights with Christmas music videos streaming in the background helped me get into the holiday spirit.
    7) Found Portland’s Santa Clones installation this week, which also helped me get into the holiday spirit.
    7.5) Daisy being her sweet, goofy self.

    Have a good week Imps! Stay safe and stay well!

  4. Hi Imps! Hi Kevin! Happy Hanukkah and happy holidays, everyone.

    Jules: Enjoy your well-deserved break ahead!

    Jone: Congrats on the selection! Good thoughts for Buster, and yay for your niece and her family.

    Hi Margie and Mulan!

    Hi Rachel and Daisy!

    My kicks:
    1) Sleep
    2) Connection
    3) Catching up
    4) Living vicariously through other people’s pets
    5) Stretching
    6) Editing
    7) Good

  5. Today got away from me. Back tomorrow!

  6. Jone, congrats to your niece, and congrats on Frogpond! Glas to read Buster is still well.

    Margie, enjoy the snow — and the picture books! Give Mulan a hug from me.

    Rachel: Enjoy the sunshine and the festive lights. Daisy is one of my favorite things about Instagram.

    Little Willow: If you’re going to live vicariously through other people’s pets, then Pumpkinfacehead says hi.

    Have a good week, you all! Stay safe.

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact sevenimp_blaine@blaine.org. Thanks.