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
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!
A Tale of Two Seders by Mindy Avra Portnoy
Illustrations by Valeria Cis
($17.95, hardcover, $7.95 paperback www.karben.com, ages 5 to 9)
Splitting the two nights of Passover between her parents’ two houses after their divorce isn’t easy, but the main character in this poignant picture book finds something positive about the experience. Over the course of three years, she attends six seders and watches as her mom and dad move on with their lives in different ways. Author Mindy Avra Portnoy uses the seders to convey the little girl’s feelings as she adjusts to new people and new traditions. I liked Portnoy’s use of charoset (a varying mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine representing the mortar used by Jewish slaves when building cities for the Egyptian Pharaoh) at her dad’s apartment, her mom’s home and at the synagogue as a way to show that families also vary in composition. The girl’s mom explains: Some are sweeter than others. But each one is tasty in its own way. The end pages contain four charoset recipes and a handy glossary.
Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim from Kar-Ben Publishing is written by Deborah Bodin Cohen with illustrations by Jago. Today’s Guest Reviewers are L.A. Parent calendar editor Michael Berick and his 6-year-old daughter Julia. A first grader, Julia enjoys reading (especially Harry Potter), creating art and making up characters.
The book Nachson, Who Was Afraid To Swim tells the story of a young Jewish boy (Nachshon) back in the days when Jews were slaves in the land of Egypt. Few things scared young Nachshon, not even the Pharaoh, so people started calling him “Brave Nachshon.” However, he does have one major fear – that is going into the water. Later, as a young man, Nachshon meets the prophet Moses and listening to his words changes Nachshon’s life.
The book nicely tells both the bible-based tale of Nachshon’s role in the Jews’ exodus from Egypt as well as the more universal story of facing one’s fears. This is not a particularly well-known Passover tale so non-Jews might not be that familiar with it; however, its story of courage speaks to everyone.
Julia liked the book and was glad that there’s “no Pharaohs to rule over us now.” The part of the book she liked the best was (and this is a spoiler alert) when Nachshon jumped into the water at the book’s end. The slightly stylized illustrations, which somewhat recall Allison Jay’s drawings, suggest ancient times without seeming old-fashion. Julia liked the illustrations at the book’s end where you could see people’s reflections in the water. Julia also thought that it would be a good book to be read to kids ages 3-7, and I would agree with that. While it might not be the best way to introduce the story of Passover to young readers, it is a fine way to teach children about overcoming fears.