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Passover Books for Kids: The Littlest Levine by Sandy Lanton

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!

thumbnail-1.aspThe 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:

9780449814314.jpg.172x250_q85Max Makes a Cake by Michelle Edwards with illustrations by Charles Santoso (Random House Kids, $17.99, Ages 3-7)

976HStone Soup with Matzoh Balls: A Passover Tale in Chelm (Albert Whitman, $16.99, Ages 4-7) by Linda Glaser with illustrations by Maryam Tabatabaei.

thumbnail.aspSeder 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.

 

29028The Story of Passover (Holiday House, $15.99, Ages 4-8) by David A. Adler with illustrations by Jill Weber.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

 

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Holiday Gift Guide – The Christmas Cat by Maryann MacDonald

Could a cat have become baby Jesus’s pet?
Find out in this engaging picture book perfect for Christmas.

The Christmas Cat cover image

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

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