What Makes This Haggadah Different from All Other Haggadot?


The first best part of sitting down to a Passover seder is the familiar smells: matzah and horseradish, charoset and wine, egg and salt and fish. The second best part is the listening—to the questions children ask and the ones raised by guests and by the haggadot and other texts. As you prepare for your seder, you may want to consider adding one of these recent published children’s haggadot to your collection. Or, take a look at some wonderful family haggadot and books that have stood the proverbial test of time.


By Reuven Frank.
Design by Michel Schwartz.
85 pages. Circa Press.
English and Hebrew.

You loved the movie, now read the book. Interspersed with song lyrics from the film, this haggadah contains the traditional text (note: this was published in conjunction with NCSY, the Orthodox-oriented National Council of Synagogue Youth. Unlike the movie, God is everywhere in this version). Family Passover Haggadah is also filled with illustrations from the movie, produced by Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks company, and they're great. Wait until you see the frogs crawling, en masse, up stairs, and the sky filling with a blood-red swarm of locusts. It's positively creepy, as well it should be. Book publishers seem to have missed the mark in coming up with haggadot for middle-aged children. Older boys and girls can do with the standards, and there's no shortage of basics for the youngest set. If you're looking for a good haggadah for your third through sixth grader, check this one out.

By Madeline Wikler.
12 pages. Kar-Ben. $4.95.

This is a nice, small (ten pages) book for tiny children. It simply answers the four questions—in a sentence or less—accompanied by fun illustrations of family and friends (like a sheep holding a haggadah). Short and sweet.

By Ellen Schecter.
Illustrated by Neil Waldman.
66 pages Viking.
English with a few prayers in Hebrew.

This is a very politically correct ("God is not described as either male or female but as a Being of limitless creativity and power") introduction to the holiday, including a shortened version of the haggadah. The suggestions here are extremely basic, such as, "Encourage young children to nap in the afternoon so they can stay up late to enjoy the festivities," and "Flowers are optional but help make your table especially beautiful and festive. If necessary, trim so the blossoms don't obscure people's line of vision." The haggadah within this book also is strictly for beginners, both in terms of the text and the questions it raises, which the authors says are designed to foster participation from everyone at the table.

A Passover Haggadah for Family Celebration
By Rahel Musleah.
Illustrations by Louise August.
112 pages. Simon & Schuster. $24.95.
English and Hebrew.

This is a beautiful book, with lush, stained-glass-like illustrations. And just reading Ms. Musleah's descriptions of the shulchan orekh—the main meal—is enough to actually make you hungry for Passover foods: "golden chicken soup and fluffy matzah balls; roasted chicken, spicy vegetable stews, and crisp cold salads." Why On This Night? is both a haggadah and an informational packet on how to prepare for Passover, from cleaning to making family projects to cooking different kinds of charoset. The Haggadah also provides questions that encourage discussion and which children will enjoy. In the answer to the Four Questions, for example, the famous Avadim Hayinu—We Were Slaves—the author asks, "Why did God need a strong hand and an outstretched arm [to bring us out of Egypt]? Wasn't a strong hand enough, the strong hand of a fighter who could battle the Egyptians?" Best of all, this book has the ability to help us imagine that we really were in Egypt which is, after all, the focus of the seder. In the same Avadim Hayinu section, for example, you will read: "Do you remember when God rescued us? We were afraid to leave Egypt. After all, it was our home, even though it was an unhappy, miserable home. It was midnight, and I remember you shivered in the blackness outside. Then we heard God call, 'Don't be afraid.' To me it felt like a powerful hand reached out through the darkness, took hold of our hands, and guided us to safety."

By Judy Dick.
39 pages. Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) Press. $8.95.

As you prepare for the holiday, give a copy of this activity book to your child and she will be entertained for hours. Then have her bring it to the Passover table and you will be entertained for hours as you see your child's answers to the questions Ms. Dick asks. There are word jumbles, places for children to design a haggadah cover, dot-to-dots, Hebrew word searches and opportunities to test your knowledge by answering the traditional questions ("YACHATZ: The seder leader takes the ______ and ______ it into two pieces.") Hey—this is fun! Maybe next year Ms. Dick will design a seder activity book for us adults.

By Eliezer Lorne Segal.
Illustrations by Bonnie Gordon-Lucas.
64 pages. No Starch Press. $12.95.
English and Hebrew.

It's kind of a haggadah. It's a poem. It's funny. It's fabulous. It is the story of Passover—but as you've never, ever read it. "The Four Questions" doesn't talk much about leaning and dipping vegetables, but instead asks why we have to eat matzah when on other nights we can eat "all kinds of wonderful good bready treats like big purple pizza that tastes like a pickle/crumbly crackers and pink pumpernickel, sassafras sandwich and tiger on rye/fifty falafels in pita, fresh-fried, with peanut butter and tangerine sauce." And in the section on the afikoman, you'll learn all about "Abie, the great Afikoman-thief" who hunts "afikomans wherever they lie. In the trunk of a tree, in the nose of a rocket, in the depths of a five-year-old boy's messy pocket." Best of all are the illustrations. They're cartoon like, but even better. Don't miss the Ten Plagues, where delightful wild beasts lie in bed, their curling tails sticking out from under the covers.

By Janet Zwebner.
48 pages. Pitsopanny Press. $7.95.

Get energized for the holiday with this collection of Passover illustrations from Janet Zwebner, also known for her work in Virtual Gooblyglop, the Animated Menorah Chanukah Activity Bookand Uh!Oh Jewish Holidays. This interactive haggadah entertains children as they search for characters cleverly interspersed in Zwebner's lively illustrations. The language of the haggadah has been simplified to highlight the important elements of the seder for younger participants.


By Howard Bogot and Robert Orkand.
Illustrated by Devis Grebu.
72 pages. Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) Press. $12.95.
English and Hebrew.

One of the nicest aspects of Passover is that you can happily invite so many haggadot and book "guests" to your table, and be pleased with all. The Tifereth Haggadah, reviewed above, comes from a publisher of Orthodox books; the CCAR is Reform. Both of these books are great. Howard Bogot is dedicated to Jewish education, something is abundantly clear throughout A Children's Haggadah. It's not just a primer for how to get involved in social action, or a journey for self-discovery, or a way to have fun at the seder; this haggadah tells the story of the Exodus from Egypt and it does so simply and amazingly well. If you have never been to a seder, or need a refresher on what to do, this is as good as it gets. A Children's Haggadah also is wonderfully illustrated. Make sure to check out the picture of Jerusalem, with designs of matzah, on the cover.

A Passover Haggadah for Children
Edited by Shaul Meizlish.
Adama Books of New York.
English, with prayers in Hebrew.

Thanks to Cabbage-Patch Kids, the word "cute" has become about as appealing as leftover cholent. But if you can get past the negative associations for a moment (I know it's hard), imagine a really good, cute Passover book for small children. Mah Nishtanah is it. Appropriate for younger children, ages three to five, the book contains an abbreviated version of the traditional haggadah, along with pictures and drawings on every page. Invariably, the text is just right for little ones ("Daddy puts down the bottom matzah and then says [the blessing]. Now Daddy gives everybody a piece of matzah to eat.") Certainly, no one should expect tiny tots to sit quietly at the seder table the entire evening. But give them this book and they should, at least, be able to manage fifteen minutes.

Also for younger children, check out:

By Judyth Groner and Madeline Wikler.
Illustrated by Chaya Burstein.
Kar-Ben. Paperback.
English, with a few prayers in Hebrew.

Thanks to the great illustrations by Chaya Burstein (best known for her Jewish Kids Catalogue), this gives boys and girls a chance to color in pictures that tell the Passover story. There are lots of fun song lyrics, too, like the perennial favorite, "One morning when Pharaoh woke in his bed, there were frogs in his bed and frogs on his head."

By Barbara Diamond Goldin.
Illustrated by Neil Waldman.

Why is this haggadah different from all other haggadot? In a word: art. Neil Waldman has created illustrations for many Jewish books. If you haven't seen them, this is a good place to start. Here, Waldman's pictures are simply breathtaking, especially the cover that shows the Israelites in the desert against a blue-purple background. Interestingly enough, the art provides both an ancient and modern feel, and it's lovely the way the pastel color fills the page. While the text here is quite brief, and in no way comprises the entire haggadah, a nice aspect of this book is that it includes information you might not see elsewhere, such as customs from Baghdad and the story of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising during Passover. The seder leader asks the children questions as if they were the Israelites leaving Egypt: "If you were leaving Egypt three-thousand years ago, how would you get ready for the journey? What would you take? How would you feel?"

Compiled by Rabbi Morris Silverman.
The Prayer Book Press of Media Judaica, Inc.
English and Hebrew.

If you're looking for a good, solid, interesting, dependable haggadah, here it is, which is undoubtedly why it has survived so many editions. It's great to introduce all kinds of new haggadot to the seder table, but it's also comforting for some families to have the familiar story in hand, which is what you'll find in The Passover Haggadah. The illustrations, in purple, red and black, will remind just about any parent of childhood seders, and it's fun being sentimental at Passover. There are a few modern additions, such as a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust and all others who have "given their lives for Kiddush Hashem,"—Blessing God—and a prayer for the State of Israel. These are presented traditionally, with no frills.