Children’s Passover Books
The Littlest Levine
I’m getting excited because Passover begins next week. As a child, I attended a Passover Seder at my aunt’s house in N.J. for both the first and second nights of the Jewish holiday. The traffic heading from Long Island to Aunt Helen’s was always horrendous, but the meal and time spent with close family were worth whatever we had to deal with on the road. This year it’s going to be something completely different. My husband and I are hosting the second night Seder at our home to start a new Passover tradition in our family. I’m reading everything I can to be prepared including kids’ books, and doing so has caused me to reflect on what it’s like to be a child during Passover. Here’s a book I’ve reviewed plus additional suggestions that you might like to share with your family. May your journeys be traffic-free and your Seder be meaningful and delicious!
The Littlest Levine by Sandy Lanton with illustrations by Claire Keay (Kar-Ben, Hardcover, $17.95; Paperback, $7.95; eBook, $6.95; Ages 3-8):
The Littlest Levine, a Passover picture book, introduces readers to Hannah, a young girl who absolutely hated being the “Littlest Levine.” “I know,” said Grandpa, “but someday you may change your mind.” Being the youngest and smallest meant there were so many things Hannah couldn’t do. She couldn’t reach the sink by herself or “ride the big yellow school bus with her sister and brother.” On Jewish holidays like Sukkot, she had to be held up by her father to decorate the Sukkah roof, and on Hanukkah Hannah was too little to light the candles without help from her grandma. But Grandpa had something up his sleeve as he assured his granddaughter, “Your holiday is coming, my littlest Levine.”
I like how Lanton chose to focus on the youngest child for this Passover picture book. Sometimes being the youngest of three siblings can be frustrating, always hearing, “No,” “Not yet!” or “Wait!” Great examples of all the things Hannah was not allowed to do were clearly illustrated in Keay’s beautiful and thoughtful artwork. But they made total sense as many could be dangerous for such a little girl. However, reading this story with a parent, children will learn what there is to look forward to as well.
Grandpa had a plan he let Hannah in on, but readers have to wait to find out what’s in store at the first Seder. Parents familiar with the Seder tradition of Passover will likely know the conclusion, but for interfaith and non-Jewish families, that may not be the case. Rest assured that in the end, Grandpa’s helped Hannah who will at last be rewarded for being the “Littlest Levine.”
Additional Recommended Passover books:
Max Makes a Cake by Michelle Edwards with illustrations by Charles Santoso (Random House Kids, $17.99, Ages 3-7)
Stone Soup with Matzoh Balls: A Passover Tale in Chelm (Albert Whitman, $16.99, Ages 4-7) by Linda Glaser with illustrations by Maryam Tabatabaei.
Seder in the Desert (Kar-Ben, Hardover, $17.95; Paperback, $7.95; eBook, $6.95, Ages 3-8) by Jamie Korngold with photographs by Jeff Finkelstein.
The Story of Passover (Holiday House, $15.99, Ages 4-8) by David A. Adler with illustrations by Jill Weber.
– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
Could a cat have become baby Jesus’s pet?
Find out in this engaging picture book perfect for Christmas.
The Christmas Cat by Maryann MacDonald with illustrations by Amy June Bates, Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013.
You don’t have to celebrate Christmas to find something special about The Christmas Cat (Dial Books for Young Readers, $16.99, Ages 3-5) by Maryann MacDonald with illustrations by Amy June Bates. All that’s required to be swept back in time to the nativity is to love cats, crave an imaginative tale and desire dreamy artwork. “Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of La Madonna del Gatto, which show Mary cuddling both the baby Jesus and a cat,” MacDonald has crafted a story that will captivate the hearts of little ones while introducing them to the nativity and the power of love bonding a baby to his pet.
On the night that Jesus was born he cried like every baby does. All the animals in the stable tried to quiet the infant, from cooing doves to lowing cows. Even the donkey brayed a lullaby to no avail. Joseph and Mary fretted, wondering how to settle the child. But it wasn’t until a tiny kitten made his way onto Mary’s lap and nuzzled baby Jesus’s neck and let out a “calm, contented purr” that the newborn’s crying began to wane. As time passed the two grew close and the kitten became a cat, always at Jesus’s side to help him fall asleep.
When an angel alerted Joseph that a jealous King Herod might harm this baby destined for greatness, Joseph knew he, Mary and young Jesus had to flee. In the rush to leave Bethlehem there was scant time to find Jesus’s beloved cat. “We can’t leave him behind!” cried Mary. She knew her baby would be inconsolable without his pet. Joseph and Mary tried to quietly cross the desert to Egypt to avoid Herod’s soldiers, but a screaming baby Jesus could bring harm to the three travelers. Nothing, not his mother’s warm, soft embrace nor the donkey’s “rocking gait” could lull him to sleep. But a clever cat had hidden in the side basket and baby Jesus’s wailing woke him up. With the crying now subsided, Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus and an adorable, devoted cat could safely make their way to Egypt. “Love had saved them.”
Could the legend of a kitty being born on the same night as Jesus possibly be true? You decide. I know Bates’s beautiful illustrations will stay with me long after Christmas ends and it will be hard to see a nativity scene and not search for a little kitty in a corner somewhere.
– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
GIVE BOOKS AS GIFTS THIS YEAR
Today’s must-have, Santa Claus: All About Me (by Me), written and illustrated by Juliette and John Atkinson, (Minedition Books, $34.95, all ages) is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.
Santa Claus: All About Me by Juliette and John Atkinson, Minedition Books, 2013.
Santa Claus: All About Me (By Me) is simply a gorgeous book. Perfect for the Christmas-lover in your life, it is chock full of information and astounding artwork. The reader learns many interesting details about the evolution and history of Santa and Christmas throughout the world and the ages. For instance, did you know that Christmas was officially banned in England during 1647-1660 and then in America during 1659-1681? Christmas crackers—those fun, paper, party poppers—were invented by an English confectioner named Tom Smith in 1847. They have been an English tradition, filled with a paper crown, a trinket, and a joke, ever since. Today, Santa is seen as wearing red; however, earlier portrayals had him in luxurious green and blue gowns.
Interior image of poppers from Santa Claus: All About Me by Juliette and John Atkinson, Minedition Books, 2013.
Presented as Santa’s own scrapbook, and two years in the making, Santa Claus: All About Me has flaps, booklets, a sixpence, recipes, a 3-D snowflake, letters, and so much more to explore. Every time I open this book, I discover something new. The artwork ranges from historical representations of Santa, such as etchings, to photographs and paintings. A wide range of co-characters fills the pages. Some such as Mrs. Christmas (Mrs. Claus) and the elves are to be expected, but in comes Charles Darwin. What could possibly be the connection? You’ll have to read the book to find out!
Santa Claus: All About Me is a wonderful choice for a coffee table or gift book that will provide hours of entertaining and informative reading, as well as a visual feast. Your family will look forward to taking it out, displaying and sharing it for years to come.
With a Mighty Hand: The Story in The Torah adapted by Amy Ehrlich with paintings by Daniel Nevins, Candlewick Press, 2013.
The High Holy Days or Hanukkah are ideal times to introduce children to Amy Ehrlich’s With a Mighty Hand. This reader-friendly adaptation of the Torah covers the first five books of the Hebrew Bible; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. But you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy this beautiful volume. Christians, who refer to the Torah as the Old Testament, will also enjoy the carefully constructed through line Ehrlich’s worked hard to convey in what is a seamless series of stories to come back to again and again.
Whether you choose to start at the beginning with “Let there be light!” or skip ahead to “I am Joseph, Your Brother” in Genesis, you’ll be pulled into the biblical tales not only by the beautifully wrought words, but by the stunning and evocative artwork Nevins has designed with paint on wood. Together they manage to make the reader feel in awe, that they are holding something special, something to be cherished. They honor the original text in a re-telling that makes the Torah accessible for first timers or for individuals with a lifetime of biblical knowledge.
With a Mighty Hand is so much more than just the story of Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or Moses. It’s about “genealogy, law, and ritual.” It’s about faith. About struggle. It’s about a people who to this day still question the Torah’s writing since there is so much contradiction, confusion in parts (sometimes due to translation) and mystery. That is why, as Ehrlich states in her introduction “it is ever new.” As a companion to our synagogue visits, not just on holidays but throughout the year, With a Mighty Hand will provide my family with a wonderful reminder of our rich heritage while also serving as a resource for countless conversations in the years to come.
With a Might Hand Includes:
• an introduction by the adapter
• a Torah genealogy
• a map of the region
• annotated endnotes
• a bibliography
• an artist’s note
Click here to read Amy Ehrlich’s enlightening introduction to the book.