As Passover approaches, families can turn the pages of a new crop of engaging children’s books for the holiday, the eight-day springtime festival that begins with the first seder on the evening of Wednesday, April 5.
In addition to the five books that are centered on the holiday, the roundup includes “Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile,” by local award-winning children’s book writer Jane Sutton. It’s a sweet story about the warm and loving inter-generational relationship between a young Jewish girl and her grandmother, who bond over Yiddish words.
Sutton, who grew up in New York hearing Yiddish words from her grandparents and parents, has always been fond of colorful Yiddish expressions that capture emotions in a unique way, she wrote in an email. Sutton has shared these with her own children and grandchildren.
“It always makes ME smile when they come out with them,” she wrote.
Also included here is “Raquela’s Seder,” which was published last spring. It recently garnered a Sydney Taylor Honors Award for Jewish children’s books from the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL). Two new books, “An Invitation to Passover” and “My Family Haggadah,” are included in AJL’s recommended spring holiday highlights. You can find the AJL’s complete list of recommendations here: jewishlibraries.org/spring-2023-holiday-highlights-list/
My Family Haggadah
Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata
Kar-Ben Publishing; ages 1-4
In this delightful board book, toddlers discover the simple joys of the Passover seder, from setting the table to drinking cups of sweet grape juice, reciting the Four Questions and the fun of hunting for the afikomen, the piece of matzah hidden at the beginning of the seder. The colorful animated illustrations bring the simple verse to life.
Baby’s First Passover
Workman Publishing; ages 0+
Introduce the youngest ones to the Passover seder and its rituals of eating crunchy matzah and opening the door to welcome the prophet Elijah. The family depicted in the bright, cartoon-like illustrations reflects the diversity of today’s Jewish American families. The book is the latest in The Original Indestructibles series of washable, rip-proof books suitable for babies and toddlers.
Ann D. Koffsky
Apples & Honey Press; ages 5-8
Kids will relate to Miri, a young girl having a hard time sitting still through her family’s long Passover seder. The spunky red-haired Miri, with her Pippi Longstocking-style pigtails, escapes to a quiet spot with her kitty under the seder table where she imagines a world under water, boards a seder submarine and joins a friendly crew of sea monsters for a lively seder. When Miri hears her name being called, she rejoins her family who invite her to use her big voice and boisterous spirit to lead the traditional seder songs. Together they dance and twirl and celebrate a festive Passover. Award-winning author and artist Ann Koffsky’s (“Kayla and Kugel” series, “Creation Colors”) brilliantly colored, playful illustrations draw kids into this endearing story. Koffsky offers companion Passover coloring pages on her website, annkoffsky.com.
An Invitation to Passover
Rabbi Kerry Olitzky and Rabbi Deborah Bodin Cohen
Illustrated by Mariia Kolker
Kalaniot Books; ages 4-8
When Hannah’s relatives can’t come to her family’s Passover seder, her parents agree she can invite friends to share in their celebration of a holiday whose central theme is welcoming the stranger. Hannah’s diverse, multicultural group of friends includes non-Jewish families. They each bring something from their heritage that resonates with the themes of the holiday: the hope of spring, the bitterness of slavery, freedom, and recalling shared Jewish history. Lively, colorful illustrations embellish the engaging story by award-winning authors who spark curiosity for readers from all walks of life.
Joel Edward Stein
Illustrated by Sara Ugolotti
Kar-Ben; ages 5-9
This tender tale, with its glowing illustrations, is set in seaside Spain during the Spanish Inquisition, when Raquela’s Sephardic family is forced by edict to hide their Jewish identity. Raquela’s fisherman father finds a way to celebrate Passover in the perfect, safe place no one will suspect.
Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile
Illustrated by Debby Rahmalia
Albert Whitman; ages 4-8
A young girl named Gracie is eager to welcome her Bubbe, the Yiddish word for grandmother, to her family’s home. But her Bubbe is sad because Gracie’s grandfather has recently died. Gracie called him Zayde, the Yiddish word for grandfather. The endearing Gracie finds just the way to cheer up her Bubbe with her curiosity about the Yiddish words her grandmother sprinkles in all their conversations.
Before long, Gracie is picking up some of her Bubbe’s Yiddish, the language Jewish immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe brought with them to America in the early 20th century. Among them: Bubela (an endearment for children that means little grandmother); shlep (to lug something heavy) and the kid-friendly word farshtunken (smelly). By story’s end, Bubbe’s smile is back, cheering Gracie on at her soccer game. An author’s note includes a list of Yiddish words, their pronunciation and definitions. Θ