Welcoming Elijah by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Susan Gal (9781580898829)
In a warm, brightly lit home, a Seder is about to start. Outside sits a lonely kitten, looking at the festivities through the window. Guests arrive to the Seder and it begins lit by candles that glow out into the dark night where the kitten sits. The boy washes his hands, dips parsley into salt water, breaks matzo, and listens to the tale of the Israelites leaving Egypt. Outside, the kitten washes his paws, eats a wet blade of grass, drinks from a puddle, and waits. Songs are sung inside and the kitten mewls outdoors. Finally, the door is opened for the prophet Elijah to enter, bringing peace. When the boy opens the door, there is the white kitten who found a home and a name, Elijah.
Newman’s text moves back and forth between the Seder and the darkness outside, cleverly tying the two together in small moments that echo one another. The beauty and solemnity of the Seder works in harmony with the beauty of the night outside and yet contrasts against it as well with the lone kitten and the house full of people. The text is simple and graceful, completed by an Author’s Note that offers more details about Passover, Seders and Ellijah.
The illustrations are done in ink, charcoal and digital collage. They use warm yellows for the indoor Seder and blues and blacks for the night outside. Readers will glimpse the indoor scenes from the kitten’s perspective as well as the darkness outside from inside the home. That connection is maintained throughout the book.
A lovely Passover book with whiskers. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Charlesbridge.
Max Makes a Cake by Michelle Edwards, illustrated by Charles Santoso
Max was growing up, he could dress himself, almost tie his shoes, and he knew the Four Questions for Passover in Hebrew and English. It was his mother’s birthday and he wanted to make her a cake. But when his little sister started to cry and Max’s dad took her for her nap. Max waited and waited for his dad to come back to bake the cake, but his sister just kept waking up and crying. So Max decided to make some frosting to help. It turned out very nicely, a mix of jam and cream cheese. Max knew that to bake a cake, he had to wait for his father. But then he had a great idea, one perfect for Passover.
Edwards has written a story that organically incorporates Passover and its meaning. She shows a warm and loving Jewish family with a father who takes expert care of his children. Max’s clever solution to the cake is nicely foreshadowed in the book but is also a wonderful surprise solution that readers will not see coming. It is also a pleasure to see a picture book about a child who solves a problem himself with creativity.
Santoso’s art conveys the same warmth as the text. He uses humor throughout in his images, with a cheery note. His depictions of Max are particularly well done as he solves the problem but not without a little mess.
Clever and creative, this is a welcome addition to public library’s Passover collections as well as a great choice for birthday story times. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from digital copy received from Edelweiss and Random House.
The Longest Night: A Passover Story by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Catia Chien
This Passover picture book tells the story of the Exodus from the point of view of a young slave girl. Readers first get a sense of the harsh environment and difficult lives of the Jewish people: the heat, the hard labor, the slavery. Then come the plagues, one after another. Finally there is the Exodus itself, the thrill and fear of fleeing in the darkness. And finally, the miracle of the sea splitting in two, giving them safe passage away from Egypt.
Written in rhyme, Snyder has created a book filled with rhythm and a story that moves swiftly along through the different parts of the Exodus. Her choice of telling the story from the point of view of a child makes the story all the more personal and dramatic.
Chien’s illustrations are just as dramatic with their deep color palette. Especially moving are the natural moments, when the little girl finds openness and freedom in the world around her, though she can’t find it personally. At these moments, the sky is huge and beautiful, but quickly the grit and sand return.
A powerful and lovely exploration of the Old Testament tale of the Exodus given a fresh and personal aspect. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade.
The Passover Lamb by Linda Elovitz Marshall, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss
Miriam has been selected to sing the Four Questions at the seder, the special Passover meal, at her grandparent’s house. She has been practicing over and over again. When she discovers that Snowball, one of their ewes, is going to have a baby, the family wonders if it will disrupt their Passover plans. Snowball has her lambs in time, but her third lamb is ignored and she refuses to nurse him. Miriam is very worried for the little lamb, but also wants to head to the seder and sing her part. So she comes up with a clever plan to care for the newborn lamb and be able to be with her extended family. This Passover story is a gentle reminder about compassion and a beautiful introduction to Passover.
Marshall writes with a gentleness that weaves throughout the entire story. She allows Miriam to really be the center of the story, her family members are important but Miriam is certainly the lead. She is the one who discovers that the ewe is going to have a baby, bottle feeds the newborn lamb and figures out the solution, all on her own. This is child-led compassion that comes from a deep and natural place.
Mai-Wyss’ art is done in watercolors. The results are rich and colorful, nicely capturing a small family farm. Just as with the text, Miriam is often front and center in the illustrations.
A superb book about caring and compassion, this is a strong addition to any public library. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Random House Books for Young Readers.