Charming Holiday Books for Young Readers
Lotsa Matzah by Tilda Balsey. Illustrated by Akemi Gutierrez. (Kar-Ben, 12 pp. $5.95)
This simple rhyming board book sweetly tells how we left Egypt after Pharaoh finally said “Okay, you Israelites be on your way.” And because there was “No time to let it rise,” that is why for centuries matza has been plain and flat. To delight the children, we tell the Seder story, hunt for the afikoman and count the number of ways to eat the matza treat.
Grover and Big Bird’s Passover Celebration by Tilda Balsey and Ellen Fischer. Illustrated by Tom Leigh. (Shalom Sesame/Kar-Ben, 24 pp. $16.95 cloth, $6.95 paper)
Children who are fans of Big Bird and Grover—and who isn’t?—will delight in imagining celebrating a Seder in Israel with them. That is if the two characters will stop dawdling. To get to the Seder, they have to take a bus—but the bus gets a flat tire and they have to wait for another. They are distracted by a puppy, Farfel, and they catch and hold him for the boy who is chasing him. They also help carry a lady’s groceries home.
Along the way, they practice saying boker tov, shalom and toda raba. Finally, they realize they must hurry before it is dark—just as the Jews hurried to leave Egypt and their bread couldn’t rise, giving them matza. Finally, they get a lift in cranky Moishe Oofnik’s tumbledown truck.
They are disappointed because they came so late they didn’t help prepare the Seder. Still, they did get to do mitzvas along the way.
Can’t Start Passover without the Bread! by Leba Lieder and Israel Drazin. Illustrated by Mind Mediaworks (31 pp. $9.99 paper, $3.99 ebook).
This tale presents parallel stories of preparing for Passover. Downstairs, there is a small mouse with big ears named Moti and his family. Upstairs is Mr. and Mrs. Goldberg, their four children and a grandmother. A catastrophe almost ruins the start of Passover. The Goldberg children must find the hidden breadcrumbs before the holiday can start. But where are the breadcrumbs? Who moved them? Before Moti saves the day, things turn hilarious when everyone and everything—a goat, a cat, a dog, a neighbor with a stick, a pail of water—gets involved in finding and snatching the bread.
This large-size, soft-cover book looks like a coloring book and is not very colorful. It is the first in a forthcoming Moti the mouse series of stories.
Cheesecake for Shavuot by Allison Ofanansky. Photographs by Eliyahu Alpern. (Kar-Ben, 32 pp. $15.95 cloth, $8.95 paper, $6.95 ebook)
This book ties Israel’s season, agriculture and holidays together in a smooth continuum that gives meaning to time and place. Photos show schoolchildren planting wheat in the fall, so it can be watered by winter rains—the digging, seeding and watering. Then comes the fun of seeing the green shoots appear. And just before Passover the teacher, Nili, shows the students that the wheat is making seed heads.
This story is reminiscent of the story of the little red hen—except in this story everybody helps. So much work has been done since planting, but there is no hurrying the process. The grains won’t be ready until Shavuot, the holiday of the grain harvest. Along the way the students learn about gleanings, which are left for the poor like in the Book of Ruth. If there are no poor people, it can be given to the goats.
The best part is yet to come: When the students visit the farm to give their grains to the goats, they help milk the goat—and come away with a roll of goat cheese. Now they can make the best dessert with their flour, cheese and strawberries from the garden—cheesecake. Recipe included.