The Four Volumes


With Passover here, it’s time to consider some great kids' Pesach books. Lucky for us, a number of fine volumes were published in 2004, everything from pre-school picture books to full-blown histories. If you've got a kid who's hungry for some Passover reading, look into the titles below, all of which were recognized by the Association of Jewish Libraries. Some serious food for thought, and all of it Kosher le-Pesach.

By Latifa Berry Kropf
Photos by Tod Cohen
24 pages. Kar-Ben Publishing. $12.95.
Ages 4 to 8.

This charming photo-essay features real children in a real Jewish preschool, preparing for and enjoying a school seder. We see the children removing leavened food from their classroom, chopping apples and nuts for charoset, and setting out the symbolic seder plate. A seder always includes a retelling of the story of Exodus, and the children in It’s Seder Time act out the story of Moses with homemade costumes. (The book gives instructions for making masks like those the young actors wear.) The activities are described without embellishment, making the book most suitable for readers already somewhat familiar with Passover celebrations, but there is an endnote at the back of the book that briefly explains the symbolic foods and activities of the seder. It's clear that the kids in the photographs are having a lot of fun! This extremely child-friendly book will be welcome in Jewish homes, classrooms, and libraries.

By Jean Marzollo
32 pages. Little Brown & Company. $15.95.
Ages 4 to 8.

Jean Marzollo has embarked on a series of Bible stories and, for the first time, is doing her own illustration. Her watercolors are informal and bright, creating an inviting atmosphere that complements the friendly, accessible storytelling style. This volume in the series tells the tale of Baby Moses, a part of the story from Exodus that is recalled each year during Passover.

In this participatory version of the story, an author’s note gives instructions for dramatizing the book. (One notices the “Greek chorus” of fish along the bottom edge of each page asks questions and makes comments that help clarify the story’s events.) The Bible tells us that Moses’ sister Miriam sang as an adult, so Marzollo has imagined her as a singing child and provided many opportunities for readers to sing along. The female characters are quite vivid in Marzollo's version of the tale, with Miriam, her mother, and the Pharaoh’s daughter all acting bravely to help save Moses’ life. The end of the story foreshadows adult Moses’ important role in helping to free the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.

This book is packed with details to pore over, providing a fun way for families to spend quality reading time together. Miriam and Her Brother Moses was written by a Christian author from a non-denominational perspective, but is quite appropriate for Jewish audiences.

A Passover Cookbook for Kids
By Judy Tabs and Barbara Steinberg
Illustrated by Bill Hauser
64 pages. Kar-Ben Publishing. $7.95.
All ages.

First published in 1985, this Passover cookbook for children has been revised, new recipes have been added, and new illustrations have been created. During the eight-day holiday we must avoid leavened foods, and this book provides a full and tempting menu of options that are “kosher for Passover.” There are recipes for soups, appetizers, breakfast foods, breadless sandwiches, fruit and veggie dishes, meat and poutry, snacks, desserts, and even sweet drinks (non-alcoholic, of course). There is even a section of “Meals from Around theWorld” featuring such exotic dishes as Matzah Egg Foo Young and Hawaiian Matzah Fry. A section at the beginning provides a suggested menu for the seder, along with explanations of the Passover story and symbols. A few craft activities are also suggested to add to the festive seder table. The recipes are simple and appropriate for kids, and safety is taken into consideration. This book provides an excellent way for children to get involved in a hands-on way with preparations for Passover, and parents will enjoy it too.

A Passover Companion
By Eric A. Kimmel
144 pages. Scholastic Press. $18.95.
Ages 9 to 12.

This impressive compilation acts as a sort of expanded hagaddah, following the order of a Passover seder but providing extra content for each step. Kimmel explains in his introduction that the traditional hagaddah readings of Passover may not make the story entirely clear to modern readers, and that this book can give people a fuller understanding of the meaning behind the holiday. Stories, history, songs, poems, prayers, and commentary are provided to bring the ancient ritual to life. The book is illustrated with beautifully reproduced paintings, old hagaddah pages, ancient Egyptian murals, medieval artwork, and even photos of modern Judaic objects. Thick paper, creamy white pages, and plenty of gold decorations make the book an art object in itself.

Wonders and Miracles is too long to use as a replacement for a haggadah, but can be used as a reference to answer questions during the seder. Even better, this book, which won a 2004 National Jewish Book Award, makes for wonderful family reading in the days leading up to and during the holiday.