The Best Passover Fiction for Children

shelved under Children's Books

The exodus from Egypt, the Civil War, the Depression, and contemporary seders with a divorced mom and dad are some of the settings for this plateful of well-told, splendidly illustrated Passover stories. And as in so many children's books, animals as well as humans take center stage with Chicken Little, Sammy Spider, and a talking horse all helping to celebrate the holiday. Let all who love books, come and read!

Let My People Go!

Let My People Go!

by Tilda Balsley, illustrated by Ilene Richard

Colorful, cartoon-like pictures and a humorous rhyming text tell the story of Passover and the Ten Plagues through the use of five roles: the Narrator, Moses, Pharaoh, the Egyptians and the Chorus. Each role is printed in a different color, so the story could be acted out as Readers Theater at Seders, and could also be used in classroom or library presentations. (Appropriate for Preschool & Primary School students)

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Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim: A Passover Story

Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim: A Passover Story

by Deborah Bodin Cohen, illustrated by Jago

Young Nachshon is known among his fellow Hebrew slaves as brave about everything... except water. When Moses confronts Pharaoh and then leads the Jews out of Egypt, Nachshon overcomes his fear of water and is the first to walk into the Red Sea. This story about courage is illustrated handsomely in rich, glowing colors and with angular shapes that evoke a desert setting. (Preschool & Primary)

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Private Joel and the Sewell Mountain Seder

Private Joel and the Sewell Mountain Seder

by Bryna J. Fireside, illustrated by Shawn Costello

Bryna Fireside has transformed a true account of a Seder held by Union soldiers during the Civil War into an easy-reading and appealing story in which three former slaves who are also soldiers in the Ohio 23rd join the twenty-one Jewish soldiers and their commander, William S. Rosecrans, in preparing for and then celebrating their Seder. As the preparations ensue and the Seder begins, Passover's blessings, symbols, and meaning are extended to include the experiences of the African-American soldiers and their hope for freedom. Attractive, heavily-textured, full-color paintings adorn the story, written in a light, lively style and divided into short chapters. (Primary & Elementary)

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The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah

The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah

by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Paul Meisel

This Yiddish-inflected Passover version of the Little Red Hen nursery tale couldn't be more fun. Those no-goodnik sheep, horse, and dog don't have a moment to spare for their friend, Little Red Hen, as she goes about first growing the wheat, then grinding it, and then baking it into matzah for her Seder. When all three have the chutzpah to show up for the Seder, she remembers the words in the Haggadah: "Let all who are hungry come and eat," and invites them in. And when it's time for clean-up afterwards, guess who says, "Not I" this time. The combination of a rollicking story, bouncy illustrations, and the take-off on a tale most children have likely heard before make this a winner. Instructions for preparing and baking matzah are given. (Preschool & Primary)

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A Tale of Two Seders

A Tale of Two Seders

by Mindy Avra Portnoy, illustrated by Valeria Cis

A little girl describes the two Seders she goes to each year after her parents have divorced. While expressing both wistfulness and her wish for her parents to get back together, the story's positive perspective is strong. At each Seder, she comments on the charoset and at the conclusion, her mother compares families to charoset — some sweeter than others, some stickier, but each tasty in its own way. Four charoset recipes follow the story, which is colorfully illustrated. (Preschool & Primary)

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The Yankee at the Seder

The Yankee at the Seder

by Elka Weber, illustrated by Adam Gustavson

The Civil War has just ended and Corporal Levy of the Union Army finds a Jewish family in Richmond, Virginia who invite him to their Seder. Having a Yankee at the Seder is shocking to the family's young son but the traditional injunction "Let all who are hungry come and eat" trumps political differences. Written with touches of humor and warmly illustrated, the story is rich in Jewish values such as peoplehood and hospitality. Like Krensky's Hanukkah at Valley Forge, it is based on "hearsay" history which may or may not have actually happened. (Primary & Elementary)

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Make a Wish, Molly

Make a Wish, Molly

by Barbara Cohen, illustrated by Jan Naimo Jones

A sequel to Molly's Pilgrim, this story tells how Molly learns to reconcile Jewish and American traditions when a classmate's birthday party occurs during Passover. Once again, Molly's resourceful mother comes to the rescue. As in the earlier book, this is a sensitive portrayal of children's relationships with classmates. (Primary)

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Carp in the Bathtub

Carp in the Bathtub

by Barbara Cohen, illustrated by Joan Halpern

Consider this a classic for Jewish children. It's timeless in its appeal and still popular with both children and adults. The plot, the writing style, and the evocation of an earlier time when gefilte fish were made and not bought are all heartwarming. So, too, are the illustrations which capture not just the two children's well-meant attempts to keep a carp that they name Joe, after a deceased neighbor, from the cooking pot but also the characters' love and respect for one another. Set shortly before Passover during the Depression, this highlights a holiday food custom but note that it doesn't explain the holiday. (Primary & Elementary)

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Shlemiel Crooks

Shlemiel Crooks

by Anna Olswanger, illustrated by Paula Goodman Koz

This off-beat and funny story — set in St. Louis in the early 1900s — is based on the author's grandfather. It involves the attempted robbery of Reb Olschwanger's saloon by two shlemiel crooks who are instigated by the ghost of Pharaoh and foiled by a talking horse and a neighborhood "shtuss." Flavored heavily with a Yiddish inflected narration and illustrated with earthy, heavily outlined linocuts, this gem of a story requires considerable practice before reading aloud... but it’s worth the effort. (Primary & Elementary)

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The Matzo Ball Boy

The Matzo Ball Boy

by Lisa Shulman, illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger

In another take-off on the Gingerbread Boy, the matzo ball boy careens through the village, evading the bubbe who created him, the yenta, the rabbi, and a sly fox with a "voice as smooth as schmaltz," but not a poor man and his wife who invite him to their Seder, where he winds up in the soup! The illustrations by Rosanne Litzinger, who also illustrated the Sydney Taylor Award winning picture book, Chicken Soup By Heart, are rich and delicious — but, they don't quite match the text in their depiction of the matzo ball boy. The use of Yiddish is a little contrived, as well. Of course, these are the opinions of one adult — a group of Kindergarten to 2nd grade children to whom the story was read found the book hilarious! (Primary)

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