From the plains of Argentina to the hallowed, magical halls of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, a new crop of children’s books for Passover transports children to unexpected places for the eight day Festival of Freedom that begins this year with the first seder, on Monday evening, April 10.
Among the engaging and informative books and new family haggadahs is a new tale penned by Western Massachusetts writer Barbara Diamond Goldin (“The Best Hanukkah Ever,” “Cakes and Miracles: A Purim Tale,”) one of the country’s most acclaimed writers of Jewish children’s books and the recipient of the Sydney Taylor Body-of-Work award from the Association of Jewish Libraries.
Nearly twenty years ago, while working on “Journeys with Elijah (1999),” an award winning collection of folk tales from around the world based on the Prophet Elijah, Diamond Goldin came across the diary of a Jewish immigrant who grew up in Argentina. The memoir described how his family, along with other Russian Jewish families, resettled in the South American country in the early 1900s.
Now, in “The Passover Cowboy,” illustrated by Gina Capaldi (Apples & Honey Press), Diamond Goldin has written an original story inspired by that memoir that is set in the rural Argentinian countryside.
Diamond Goldin enjoys exposing kids to the diverse cultures of Jewish life from around the world, she told the Journal. From a young age, the writer and long time Jewish educator was interested in Jewish life in South America because she had an aunt who had emigrated there from Eastern Europe. In “Passover Cowboy,” readers discover that the Argentinian people also fought for their independence, reflecting Passover’s theme of the Israelite’s quest for freedom from slavery.
“I liked making that connection,” said Diamond Goldin, now the director at the Edwards Public Library in Southampton.
Here’s a brief description of “Passover Cowboy” and these other terrific reads for kids of all ages.
Sammy Spider’s Passover Shapes
Sylvia A. Rouss
illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn
Kar-Ben; ages 1-4; $5.99 board book
A brightly illustrated board book featuring a friendly young spider who celebrates Passover with his human friend, Josh Shapiro, and his family. This is the second Sammy Spider board book, designed for toddlers, based on the hugely popular Sammy Spider Jewish children’s book series for older readers.
Passover Scavenger Hunt
illustrated by Miki Sakamoto
Kar-Ben; ages 4-9; $17.99 hardcover; $7.99 paperback
A lively Passover story where a young, spirited girl named Rachel takes over the job at her family’s Passover seder of hiding the Afikomen, the piece of matzah that children search for during the seder. Kids will have fun following along as Rachel’s young cousins try to solve a series of her clever rhyming clues that all relate to the Passover seder.
A Different Kind of Passover
Kar-Ben; ages 4-9; $17.99 hardcover; $7.99 paperback
This is a touching, intergenerational story where a young girl named Jessica is determined to figure out a way for her ill grandpa to still lead the family’s Passover seder. The story will hit home for many kids with aging relatives as Jessica helps carry on a family tradition in a creative new way. Jeremy Tugeau’s expressive illustrations capture Jessica’s emotions of joy, disappointment and the love and admiration she shares her with grandfather.
The Passover Cowboy
Barbara Diamond Goldin
illustrated by Gina Capaldi
Apples and Honey Press; ages 4-8; $17.95
Jacob is a young Jewish boy whose Russian family emigrated to Argentina. His new friend Benito is helping him learn to ride his pony and Jacob dreams of riding in the rodeo. As Passover approaches, Jacob works up the courage to invite his non-Jewish friend to his family’s seder. Readers will wonder along with Jacob whether Benito will accept his invitation in this stirring story that reveals the power of friendship, the challenges of adjusting to a new culture and the meaning of freedom. Kids will enjoy the fun mayhem in Gina Capaldi’s double-page illustration at the family seder when Jacob opens the door for Elijah the Prophet and a flock of chickens fly in. An Author’s Note explains the historical background of how Eastern European Jews arrived in Argentina and poses a timely discussion question of what it would be like to move to a new country.
How It’s Made: Matzah
photographs by Aliyahu Alpern
Apples & Honey Press; ages 5-8; $15.95
Kids get an up-close look at how matzah is made in this fascinating, well-designed book overflowing with stunning color photographs and informative and easy to follow text. Several “Do It Yourself” recipes and craft projects included.
The Family (and Frog!) Haggadah
Rabbi Ron Isaacs and Karen Rostoker-Gruber
illustrations by Jackie Urbanovic
Behrman House; all ages; $7.95
A wisecracking frog takes center stage in this kid-friendly haggadah that offers families a fun-filled, informative, abbreviated seder (between 30 minutes to an hour.) The lively hagaddah is embellished with photographs and illustrations and guides families through all parts of the seder. An entertaining cartoon frog makes his appearance throughout the pages with jokes that are sure to bring giggles and keep kids engaged.
The (unofficial) Hogwarts Haggadah
Moshe Rosenberg; designed by Aviva Shur
BSD Publishing; all ages; $27.95
Fans of Harry Potter will welcome Moshe Rosenberg’s haggadah that draws on the parallels between the wizardry of the best-selling Harry Potter books and the Passover story, as told at the seder. This is the second Jewish Harry Potter-themed book by Rosenberg, a rabbi and Judaic studies educator in New York. (The first was “Morality for Muggles: Ethics in the Bible and the World of Harry Potter.”) The Haggadah includes the traditional text, in Hebrew, and in English translation. Interspersed throughout is commentary through the lens of J.K. Rowling’s characters, that sparks conversations on questions of freedom, evil, and the Four Children. There’s even a Harry Potter-themed version of the popular seder song “Had Gadya” (“One Small Goat”).