As you saw with my last post, I have a deep love for all things Passover and so we have a wealth of materials in our house. It is not only my favorite holiday, but my older daughter’s as well. With that said, we of course wanted to present books that are more appropriate for older kids, especially those still in elementary school.
For a perfect explanation of the Passover seder, look no further. Toby Belfer’s Seder by Gloria Pushker was written as a Passover primer for everyone. As the opening page explains, “The idea for this story was suggested by non-Jewish friends who wanted to know the meaning of Passover.” With that in mind, it is the story of two best friends who happen to be different religions. Toby invites Donna to her family’s seder but Donna isn’t quite sure what she should wear and what she is supposed to do. Throughout the lovely story, items of Passover are explained, with key terms in bold. The basic story of Passover is also included as well as transliterations of key blessings. This is an awesome book for Jewish and non-Jewish children.
While the main concept of Penny and the Four Questions by Nancy Krulick is the questions and the fact that the youngest child at the table gets to read them, it is also a lesson in friendship and understanding. Penny is super excited to get to read the four questions for the first time. When her mother tells her that a new family from Russia will be at their seder and that their daughter is actually younger and has been practicing the questions, Penny is crushed. She mopes around until she actually gets to meet Natasha. As the girls get to know each other, Penny realizes how difficult life had been for them in Russia, what fleeing meant, and generally how much easier she has had it. This is Natasha’s first seder because they were not allowed to celebrate in Russia. Penny realizes that tonight is more special for Natasha and that she should in fact get to ask the questions.
We love this book partially because of my older daughter’s obsession with asking the four questions, but also because it is a lesson in humility. In the end, the girls wind up asking the questions together – supporting each other as best friends do.
Miriam’s Cup, by Fran Manushkin, tells an important part of the Passover story that is often left out of seders. We all know of the prophet Elijah. In this book, young Miriam’s mother decides to tell her daughter the story of the “other” passover prophet – Miriam. Miriam was Moses’s sister who had tremendous amounts of faith and courage. She knew of the coming of Moses, watched over him in the bulrushes, and made it possible for their mother, Joheved, to be his nursemaid. Miriam praised God with her song, specifically when they crossed the red sea, and He remembered her by creating a well of water that traveled with the Jews through the 40 years in the dessert. We should all remember and honor Miriam. I feel that this book is especially important in homes with strong Jewish women.
The Passover Parrot is a very silly story by Evelyn Zusman that tells the importance of the four questions and the hunt for the afikomen. Right before Passover Leba is given a parrot. When she needs to practice the four questions, the parrot is the only one that will listen to her and, of course, he started to squawk the questions too. At the seder the children steal the afikomen from their father so the can ransom it to him later. Leba hides it in her room. She winds up having to also bring the parrot upstairs when he wants to ask the four questions with her. When they go to get the afikomen, both it and the bird are gone! The parrot is on a tree branch outside and Leba realizes that the easiest way to get the afikomen back is by singing the questions – Hametz the parrot just can’t resist singing along. This is a sweet story that also ties in the holiday.
This is not a Passover book, per se, but there is a section that does touch on the holiday in a truly beautiful way. In Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco, young Larnel asks if he can join Mrs. Katz for Passover so she teaches him about the holiday. She explains that the Jews, like African Americans, were once slaves as well. The Jews prayed to God for freedom. Then she says that we have a large feast to celebrate our freedom, but we also take note to remember those who suffered so that we could be free – the Jews that came before and the Egyptians that suffered from the plagues. This book is a beautiful read all year long, but I loved what it had to say about Passover. For the complete review, click here.
No list of Passover books for slightly older kids would be complete without including Matzah & Miracles: A Passover Musical, by January M. Akselrad. We got this about 2 years ago and at the time, I promise you that we listened to it NONSTOP! So, when you buy this it comes with a chapter book and a CD. I am sure that J read the story, but more than that, we listened to it. The story is about two kids who think Passover is boring – they want magic and miracles to keep them entertained. Their Bubbe (grandmother) starts spinning the story of Passover such that they go back in time and become key characters in the story. Pharaoh is as evil as ever singing of his evil decree that “ever first born male child must be thrown into the sea.” We learned more about Miriam and Joheved in this story than anything that had come before and the kids are encouraged to think what it would be like if they had been in Moses or Miriam’s positions. It is an awesome way to bring the story to life.
One final book that I couldn’t leave out is Scarlett and Sam Escape from Egypt by Eric A. Kimmel. This was released in January of 2015 and we only got our copy yesterday. That said, we have always been highly impressed with Kimmel’s work and the premise sounds fabulous (although a little similar to Matzah and Miracles)
From Amazon – One minute, twins Scarlett and Sam are bickering about who’s going to read the Four Questions at the Passover seder. The next minute, they’ve been swept up by Grandma Mina’s time-traveling carpet and dumped in the ancient Egyptian desert! And as if being stranded 3,000 years in the past isn’t bad enough, they also find their fellow Hebrews suffering in slavery. So they team up with Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to help free the slaves. The future’s looking bright! But the story they know so well doesn’t turn out the way they expected…
This last one will come with us on the airplane to California. Chag Sameach!