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March 2, 2022 in Library Corner
By Robin Jacobson.
When it comes to Passover children’s books, you could cover a Seder table many times over with wonderful choices. Here are five favorites, a mix of new and older titles, starting with ones for the youngest Pesach celebrants.
by Miriam Latimer (ages 1 and up, 2012)
This exuberant sing-along board book presents four rhyming verses of Dayenu in easy, child-friendly English, recounting the Passover story of the Jews leaving Egypt, crossing the miraculously divided sea, receiving the Torah, and finally entering the Land of Israel. Each verse ends with the joyful refrain, “That was enough to make us happy. Sing a song and show we’re happy. Dayenu! Day-Day-enu, Day-Day-enu . . .” Like the traditional song, this version is irresistible.
by Laura Gehl (ages 2 and up, 2015)
A family of adorable woolly sheep finds room for successive unexpected guests at their Passover seder. Humorous, rhyming text announces the arrival in turn of Grandma Sheep, Uncle Sol, Grandpa Sheep, Danny Sheep, and so on. The expanding group progresses through the ritual meal, depicted in appealing, cheerful pictures.
by Leslea Newman (ages 3 and up, 2020)
With poetic text and lush illustrations, Welcoming Elijah won both a National Jewish Book Award and the Association of Jewish Libraries’ Sydney Taylor Award for best picture book.
A young boy, his family, and guests – a diverse, multiracial group – are celebrating Passover while outside a hungry stray kitten sits alone in the dark. Children will delight in seeing how the boy’s and kitten’s actions mirror each other. “Inside, the boy broke the middle matzo in half. Outside, the kitten split a twig in two.” When the boy opens the door for Elijah, he finds the kitten waiting hopefully on the stoop. This heartwarming story illuminates a holiday that calls on Jews to welcome and help others, remembering that once we were strangers in Egypt.
by Susan Kusel (ages 4 and up, 2021)
This beautifully illustrated retelling of the classic Yiddish story, The Magician by I.L. Peretz, is this year’s Sydney Taylor gold medalist in the picture book category.
Of special interest for local readers, the book is set in Washington, D.C., during the Great Depression. Heading home past blooming cherry blossoms, Muriel has little hope of a festive Passover Seder; her father, like many others in 1933, has lost his job. Nonetheless, she gives a penny to a juggler performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Soon afterward, the juggler reappears at her home and transforms her parents’ bare table to one overflowing with holiday foods – “mountains of tender brisket, oceans of flavorful soup, and fields of crunchy matzah.” When the rabbi is summoned, he proclaims the bountiful feast a “true miracle” to be shared by the whole neighborhood. As the holiday meal ends, Muriel discovers that Elijah’s cup is empty and deduces the true identity of the mysterious juggler.
by Moshe Rosenberg (ages 9 and up, 2017)
Inspired by J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, this bestselling haggadah includes commentary linking Passover themes such as freedom, slavery, education, and the number four to elements of the Harry Potter books. For example, noting the parallel between the four houses of Hogwarts and the four children of the Seder, Rabbi Rosenberg writes that both Hogwarts and the haggadah recognize “a major principle of education – each student is an individual, endowed with unique character traits, aptitudes, and passions.” The Hogwarts Haggadah is an enchanting addition to the Passover table.