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March 25, 2010 - Image 76

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2010-03-25

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Arts & Entertainment

Passover Plots

New children's books enliven the holiday.

Penny Schwartz
Jewish Telegraphic Agency


ver the past 10 to 15 years, as
the offering of Jewish children's
books has burgeoned, the style
and variety of Passover books for chil-
dren has expanded, too.
Given the huge selection of Passover
Haggadot, perhaps it is no surprise.
There are traditional biblical retellings
of the Exodus story, toddler board books,
children's versions of the Haggadah, fan-
ciful picture books starring spiders and
frogs, books of songs, historical fiction
of celebrating Passover in different times
and cultures such as the Holocaust or in
the Civil War era.
While they may differ in approach, set-
ting, purpose and even quality, the books
reflect the popularity of Passover for
American Jewish families.
Here are some new books that will add
to the variety for young kids, enlivening
and adding beauty to this beloved holi-
day that celebrates freedom.

The Little Red Hen and the Passover

Leslie Kimmelman,
illustrated by Paul Meisel
Holiday House, $16.95. Ages 4-8

Time to make the matzah, the Little Red
Hen realizes in this Passover version of
the well-known tale. The can-do Little Red
Hen sets out to grow special wheat as she
prepares to bake special matzah for her
Passover seder. But who will help with the
"Not I, said Sheep.

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`Sorry, bub; said Horse.
`Think again; said Dog, a little bit
And so it goes. Little Red Hen is on
her own — planting, harvesting and
shlepping the wheat to the mill. All along,
her lazy friends do nothing but lounge
around the farm. This is no ordinary hen.
She's got a Yiddish tongue.
Sprinkled throughout the delightful,
lighthearted tale are common Yiddish
phrases such as kvetch, chutzpah and oy
gevalt! A glossary of words is in the back
of the book.
Meisel's gloriously bright, whimsical
illustrations are a perfect pairing with
Kimmelman's upbeat, engaging prose.
Kids watch as the hen bakes the matzah
and prepares the traditional Passover
food of hard-boiled eggs, parsley, apples
and nuts, and gefilte fish.
When her no-goodnik farm friends
show up at Hen's door all ready to par-
take in the seder, Hen reminds herself of
the Haggadah's imperative to welcome
all who are hungry. Together they enjoy a
festive seder. Best of all, in the end, Hen
gets to recline. Endnotes include a short
description of Passover and a kid-
friendly recipe to make matzah.

A Tale of Two Seders

Mindy Avra Portnoy,
illustrated by Valeria Cis
Kar-Ben, $17.95. Ages 5-9

In this engaging, thoughtful story, a
young girl whose parents are divorced
celebrates Passover with two sets of fami-
lies, in two homes, with many versions of
charoset. It's easier than Thanksgiving,
the girl notes, because she doesn't have
to decide where to eat — and there's still
lots of food.
The story takes place over three years;
that means six seders and six charoset
The first year, "Dad's charoset didn't
really stick together:' the girl says, and
mom's charoset tasted mostly like figs.
The girl is comfortable at her mom's
house and at her dad's apartment. Wise
and inquisitive, the girl expresses her
reactions and worries honestly. She
understands that her parents worry
that she might be unhappy. At night she
dreams sometimes that her family is
back together.
While the story centers on a serious
subject, the author is not heavy handed.
It's a Passover story in a contemporary
American family. The girl is likeable,
believable and upbeat. She enjoys the
seders and comments on the many ver-
sions of charoset that seem to differ from
home to home and year to year, depend-
ing on the cook.
The third year brings a comforting
surprise that reminds the little girl that
like the many varieties of charoset, each
family can be sweet in its own way.

Passover, Celebrating Now,
Remembering Then

Harriet Ziefert,
paintings by Karla Gudeon
Blue Apple Books, $17.99. Ages 3-7

The history, symbols and traditions
of Passover come to life in this lav-
ishly illustrated book by the award-win-
ning team of Harriet Ziefert and Karla
Gudeon, who created a similar book for
Chanukah. The Passover book contrasts
the ancient Exodus story with a joyful
family celebration of a Passover seder.
Each two-page spread offers a simple
explanation and illustration of how the
holiday is celebrated now. The page flaps
open to reveal lively portrayals of the
holiday long ago.
Colorful, folk-inspired artwork depicts
various scenes, from the Egyptians chas-
ing the Israelites through the desert,
to the parting of the sea, to the ancient
Temple in Jerusalem. It's perfect for
young children, who will enjoy the whim-
sical depiction of preparing for a seder.
They can recognize the symbols such as
the egg, the glass of wine, matzah. They
will delight in opening the flaps of the
double pages to reveal the hidden illus-
The narrative is simple but informa-
tive, presented in poetic style.

Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim

Deborah Bodin Cohen,
illustrated by Jago
Kar-Ben, $8.95. Ages 4-8

Published last year, this elaboration
of a tale from rabbinic lore won several
prestigious awards, including a 2009
Sydney Taylor Honor Award. The author
and illustrator offer a creatively imagined
tale of the ancient story of Exodus. Told
from a young boy's perspective, the book
inspires courage and faith.




°)4 tOSOVEtt


41, I


Afraid tO Swim





March 25


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