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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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Hanukkah Picture Book Roundup

The Festival of Lights (Hanukkah) Ends Tonight

I just couldn’t light the last Hanukkah candle tonight without sharing a few more terrific Hanukkah picture books for 2013. These are three books you’ll want to keep to read again next Hanukkah.

Hanukkah Bear cover art by Mike Wohnoutka
Hanukkah Bear by Eric A. Kimmel with illustrations by Mike Wohnoutka, Holiday House, 2013.

According to the copyright page, Hanukkah Bear by Eric A. Kimmel with illustrations by Mike Wohnoutka (Holiday House, $16.95, Ages 4-8, also available as an ebook) first appeared in Cricket, the Magazine for Children in 1988 and as a picture book titled The Chanukkah Guest with illustrations by Giora Carmi, in 1990.

I’m so glad Holiday House decided to bring out this charming book again, this time with a revised text and new artwork. Whether you read this story in the ’80s, ’90s or are reading it now for the first time, it will not disappoint. Grown-ups and kids alike will get such a kick out of the joyful and humourous Hanukkah tale featuring hungry Old Bear just awoken from hibernation to the smells of cooking latkes, and ninety-seven year old Bubba Brayna, a spry old villager who can neither see nor hear well anymore. Expecting the rabbi, Bubba Brayna opens the front door after hearing a thump and mistakes Old Bear for the rabbi. She then proceeds to have him join her as she lights the Menorah, plays a game of dreidel and finally feeds him. Old Bear “Rrrrrumphs” and “Grrrroooowrs” throughout the evening with Bubba Brayna filling in bits of conversation here and there. The sweet cover image of Old Bear licking Bubba Brayna after receiving his lovely red Hanukkah scarf should be a clue to the youngest readers that the story has a delightful ending and only latkes get eaten!! Plus Wohnoutka’s illustrations have a glowing quality about them that add to the warmth of the story. The end pages contain a handy latke recipe and author’s notes about the holiday for those less familiar with the celebration.

Click here for a Hanukkah Bear maze activity.

Sadie's Almost Marvelous Menorah artwork by Julie Fortenberry
Sadie’s Almost Marvelous Menorah written by Jamie Korngold with artwork by Julie Fortenberry, Kar-Ben Publishing, 2013.

Sadie’s Almost Marvelous Menorah, by Jamie Korngold with illustrations by Julie Fortenberry (Kar-Ben, $17.95 hardcover; $7.95 paperback, Ages 2-6), is another fun story for children. Sadie loves school, her teacher Morah Rachel and the approaching holiday of Hanukkah. When Hanukkah arrives she knows she’ll spin dreidels, eat potato latkes with applesauce (my favorite, too!) and light the menorah with her family.  The best part for Sadie is that she and her classmates get to make their very own menorahs from clay. In school she works hard to knead, roll and shape her menorah. Sadie decides to paint hers pink with blue squiggles and can’t wait until Friday when she can bring it home. But when her mother arrives at school to pick her up, Sadie rushes to her and drops the menorah.  The handmade treasure breaks into “a million, zillion pieces!” The clever way Sadie’s mom handles the disaster leads to a new family tradition that  makes for a very happy, unique ending. Fortenberry’s colorful artwork complements the text and conveys just the perfect amount of emotion and detail to help move the story forward. The three candle blessings included in the end are terrific to have especially since our family has only ever known just one to say.

 

Eight is Great artwork by Hideko Takahashi
Eight is Great by Tilda Balsley with artwork by Hideko Takahashi, Kar-Ben Publishing, 2013.

For the youngest kids at home, there’s Eight is Great, (Kar-Ben, $5.95, Ages 1-4), by Tilda Balsley with illustrations by Hideko Takahashi, a board book with each page detailing some aspect of Hanukkah incorporating the number eight. Whether it’s eight days and nights to celebrate, or eight candles lit, Balsley finds just the right descriptions in simple rhymes. Of course there are eight places to set at the table and eight latkes to fill the guests’ plates. “There’s more,” says the dad in this family, “don’t hesitate.” Mom helps with eight presents to wrap and for those new to playing dreidel, there are four sides and if you play with two, that makes a total of eight! The story ends, as many a Hanukkah tale does, by remembering “heroes long before us” helping make this picture book complete with just 12 pages. Takahashi’s jewel-toned illustrations light up the board book making this an ideal introduction to the Festival of Lights.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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