Fancy flourishes in children's books, igniting readers' imaginations and instigating inquiry. There are many approaches to Passover, the great Jewish festival of freedom, and this varied crop of books — some of the best of those recently published as well as some older favorites — offer kids fun, facts, and food for thought.
by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Karla Gudeon
Superlative in conception, design, and content, this Passover book captures both the meaning and the observance of the holiday in the present (now) and at the time of its origins (then). The text is direct and sparse, the folk-art illustrations are expansive and captivating, many spread across fold-out pages that very creatively link Passover's contemporary and historical aspects. As a modern family prepares for Passover and then celebrates it at their Seder, each element of the Seder is connected to the Passover narrative at a level of written and visual clarity that is perfect for children of many ages, especially younger ones. (Appropriate for Preschool & Primary School students)
by Bracha Goetz
Photos of toddlers are matched with a concept related to Passover and with some additional photos of the objects associated with the concept. For example, the first double-page spread says: "Pesach is here. What do you see? A house so clean! How can that be?" The child is dressed in denim work clothes and objects used to clean the house are shown opposite her: a vacuum cleaner, sponge, broom, paper towels, pail, and mop. The book's other concepts are food, the Seder table, drinks, clothes, the Haggadah, and the hidden afikomen. The children adorning each one are too adorable for words alone to do justice. Virtually all of the very simple text is in English except for the words kosos (cups), kos shel Eliyahu (Elijah's cup), Seder, Hagaddah, and afikomen. However, because there is no glossary to explain these terms, this board book may have limited use. The photographs, in color, are bright, clear, and labeled. (Preschool)
by Josh Hanft, illustrated by Seymour Chwast
A cogent text, lively illustrations, and flaps to lift are the three notable features of this third book on which Hanft and Chwast have collaborated. It tells the story of the Exodus, contrasting the dignified figure of Moses with the rather effete one of Pharaoh, and concludes with scenes of two Seders, one from times past and one of today, complete with a Seder plate whose foods are discovered by lifting flaps. Chwast's illustrations are deceptively simple because they convey so much meaning so economically. The colors are muted but the palette is varied so that there is much to look at on every page. As in The Miracles of Hanukkah, the text follows the Bible without fictional details being added. (Primary)
by Deborah Heiligman
Another excellent book in the Holidays Around the World series, this is by the same author as Celebrate Hanukkah with Lights, Latkes, and Dreidels and follows the same format. Engaging color photos of Jews observing Passover in different parts of the world accompany a concise text that conveys the meaning and history of the holiday, its customs, and the observance of the Seder. Appended is more information about Passover, a recipe, and some recommended books and websites. Rabbi Shira Stern's discussion of Passover concludes the book. (Primary & Elementary)
by Eric A. Kimmel
The traditional order of the Seder is the organizing principle of this superbly written and illustrated anthology. The lucid narrative blends history, tradition, modern practices, and Passover's timeless meaning. It's extended by a fascinating selection of poetry, stories, and song lyrics, including a K'tonton tale and another about a protest rally on behalf of Soviet Jewry. The illustrations and book design are outstanding and draw from centuries of Haggadot, manuscripts, ritual objects, sculpture and paintings. A distinguished book for a wide range of interests and ages and a winner of a National Jewish Book Award. (Primary, Elementary, Middle School, High School, & Adult)
by Tami Lehman-Wilzig, illustrated by Elizabeth Wolf
This title describes the Passover customs of Jews from all over the world to children in a brightly illustrated, well-designed book. Gibraltar, Turkey, Ethiopia, India, Israel, Iran, Morocco, and the United States are the countries whose customs are used to show each step of the Seder unfolding. A map and brief historical information about each place is also provided, along with recipes. Whereas Heiligman's book Celebrate Passover with Maror, Matzah, and Memories focused on the meaning and rituals of Passover, this book focuses on national customs. There are few books for children about Jewish customs and practices in places other than Anglophone countries so this is welcome. (Primary & Elementary)
by Sylvia A. Rouss, illustrated by Katheine Janus Kahn
Beginning with a brief overview of Passover, the remainder of the book follows the traditional Passover Haggadah in abbreviated form. It's written in style that young children will understand and enhanced by clever songs that are adapted from familiar ones like Old Macdonald Had a Farm. The illustrations are slightly less abstract than in the other Sammy Spider books and Sammy himself appears only peripherally. (Preschool & Primary)
by Cherie Karo Schwartz, Barbara Rush
Organized in relation to the Seder, this is filled with information, stories, crafts, games, recipes and songs. A drab, black and white format is offset by lively, informal writing, photographs of Jewish children, and a haimish attitude on the authors' part. (Primary, Elementary & Middle School)
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About Linda Silver
Linda Silver is a retired librarian and a not-retired reviewer, editor, and author. She edits The Jewish Valuesfinder -- an online guide to Jewish kids’ books. She's written a book on Jewish values in children’s books and her newest book, The Best Jewish Books for Children and Teens: A JPS Guide, will be published by in October of 2010.
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