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.
The Passover Lamb (Random House, Books for Young Readers, $17.99, ages 6-9) is an upbeat Passover story based on a true event from author Linda Elovitz Marshall and one I found particularly touching. This heartwarming, unique tale features sweet yet subdued watercolor illustrations from Tatjana Mai-Wyss and is sure to be a story families will want to return to each Passover holiday
As Miriam checks on the farm animals before it’s time for the family seder at her grandparents’ house, she notices that Snowball the sheep is not acting like herself. Miriam’s parents realize that Snowball’s woolly coat must have hidden her pregnancy and though late in the season for a birth, it appears Snowball is due any moment.
It’s not long before Snowball gives birth to three little lambs, but her milk can only accommodate two. While Miriam worries about the hungry rejected lamb she’s in a quandary as to what to do. She’s finally mastered The Four Questions which the youngest child (when able to) recites in Hebrew and is eager for her turn. The questions – why do we eat matzoh, eat bitter herbs, dip our vegetables twice in salted water and dine while reclining – are a major component of the Passover seder, the answers being explanations as to why this night is different than all other nights. But how can she leave the abandoned lamb on its own?
It seems the decision is made for her when Miriam’s father announces the family will have to hold their own seder to be able to care for the new lamb, but Miriam is determined to find a solution to please everyone. She fittingly finds inspiration from the tale of baby Moses’s rescue and applies it to her very own situation. The end result is truly satisfying: a saved seder with the grandparents all because of one bright little girl.
Find out more about the author by reading this wonderful interview by Barbara Krasner.
Read about other recommended Good Reads With Ronna Passover books from previous years at these links:
A Sweet Passover
A Tale of Two Seders
Nachshon Who Was Afraid to Swim
The Yankee at the Seder
– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
Lives of the Great Spiritual Leaders ($19.95, Thames and Hudson, middle grade readers) is the first book of its kind I have seen. 20 of the most powerful spiritual leaders from Moses (1250 BC) to the Dalai Lama (present day) are featured in this book, giving middle grade readers background and highlights of a wide variety of philosophies. Listed in chronological order of when he or she lived, each leader’s nationality, religious association and basic doctrine is listed, followed by more details about that individual’s life. We learn about how Socrates showed the people of the world they do not really know the answers to questions they think they understand, how Gandhi taught his people to peacefully protest against injustice to make positive changes and how Mother Teresa gave her life to the poorest of the poor.
From the most famous spiritual leaders in the world, to the lesser known, what I love about this book is that author Henry Whitbread gives us enough information to get a basic sense of the background, beliefs struggles and accomplishments of each individual. Every section of the book is complemented by excellent quotes, photographs and illustrations. No matter what religion a child follows, an important part of a well-rounded education is learning about other religions and philosophies and the spiritual leaders who made great impacts on the world. This book should be on classroom shelves and in the libraries of families everywhere.
This book was reviewed by Debbie Glade.
A Sweet Passover by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by David Slonim ($16.95, Abrams Book for Young Readers, ages 4 and up) is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.
I adore all things Passover and all things matzah, the unleavened bread we eat for eight days during this Jewish holiday. The book, upbeat and educational, will help children learn in a deliciously untraditional approach to this very traditional celebration. The artwork, while not elaborate, conveys all the necessary emotions needed to supplement such a colorful story in a delightful way.
Miriam, the main character, loves being with her parents, and relatives for the Seder, or feast. These Seders take place two nights, and an important ritual is to read aloud from the Haggadah, the book that tells the story of Passover. We relive history about the Jews’ exodus from Pharaoh’s rule to always remember how Moses led his people to freedom. When the Israelites, or Jews fled to cross the Red Sea, their departure was in such haste there was no time for the bread dough to rise! This year, Miriam eats just a bit too much matzah and can only be coaxed to try more when her Grandpa introduces her to a unique type of French toast known as matzah brei they will make together. There’s a terrific recipe included (see below), an author’s note and a glossary of Yiddish terms used.
The Best Matzah Brei in the World (as told to the author by her father)
This is a fun meal to make with the help of an adult. Always make sure an adult helps you when you are cutting items and using the stove or other hot surface.
This recipe makes one large matzah brei.
7 pieces of matzah
¼ cup milk
pinch of salt (optional)
2 tbsp butter
toppings such as applesauce, sugar and cinnamon, maple syrup, sour cream, and salt and pepper
Large mixing bowl
Small mixing bowl
2 large plates
fork or whisk
Break up seven pieces of matzah into small pieces and soak in warm water in the large bowl for one minute. Then drain by covering the bowl with a large plate and tipping it to let the excess water run out.
Using the fork or whisk, beat three eggs together in the small bowl with the milk and a pinch of salt (optional), and then add this mixture to the crumbled, drained matzah. Mix together well.
In a large frying pan, melt the butter.
Pour the matzah brei mixture into the frying pan. Spread it out evenly so that it resembles a large pancake. Cover and cook over a very low heat for about ten minutes, until crisp and brown on one side (raise the edge of the matzah brie with a spatula to check if it’s crisp and brown).
When the matzah brei is cooked on one side, turn it over by placing the other large plate over the pan and then flipping the whole thing over. While the matzah brei is on the plate, add more butter to the frying pan, if necessary. Then slide the matzah brei from the plate back into the pan to cook the other side. Again, cover and cook over very low heat for about ten minutes.
When the second side of the matzah brei is crisp and brown, it is done. Cut into wedges and serve with applesauce, sugar and cinnamon, maple syrup, sour cream, or salt and pepper. Essen In gezunt!