A Per­sian Passover

Etan Basseri, Rashin Kheiriyeh (Illus­tra­tor)

  • Review
By – April 11, 2022

One of the most joy­ous fea­tures of chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture is the oppor­tu­ni­ty it pro­vides chil­dren to spend some glo­ri­ous time inhab­it­ing a world yet to be explored. A Per­sian Passover gives today’s read­ers a glimpse into the lives of Per­sian Jews as they pre­pared for Passover accord­ing to their tra­di­tion­al cus­toms; the dif­fer­ences in lifestyle are appar­ent, but so are the com­mon­al­i­ties that enable young read­ers to both iden­ti­fy with and learn about a fas­ci­nat­ing Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty that exist­ed not that long ago in Iran.

Broth­er-sis­ter pair Ezra and Roza, por­trayed with giant smiles and rosy cheeks, are burst­ing with ener­gy. Ezra loves to run, and Roza times his progress as he races around the neigh­bor­hood. Short­ly before Passover, they watch an oven being built in the court­yard of the syn­a­gogue and Ezra explains to his younger sis­ter that each fam­i­ly brings their own flour to this tem­po­rary oven so it can be baked into the matzah, which will be used on the hol­i­day. When it is their turn to bring their fam­i­ly’s flour to the oven, the chil­dren race to the court­yard and hand their bag of flour to the team of bak­ers, who must speed­i­ly turn it into matzah with­in the required time for it to be kosher for Passover. They take their warm, fresh­ly baked matzah and begin to race home. Of course, run­ning with a pre­cious pos­ses­sion has its obvi­ous pit­falls; Ezra slips into an unno­ticed pud­dle, and the matzah is ruined.

They enter the local mar­ket area to search for new matzah, but it is too close to the hol­i­day for any to be brought. Along the way, they are giv­en oth­er spe­cial foods for their Passover seder. such as scal­lions and sweet can­died almonds. Luck­i­ly, a neigh­bor has some matzah to spare and the kind, but lone­ly, neigh­bor is invit­ed to share the seder with Ezra, Roza, and their family.

Lessons sweet­ly taught include care­ful han­dling of respon­si­bil­i­ties, as well as hos­pi­tal­i­ty and gen­eros­i­ty, while intro­duc­ing a set of col­or­ful, evoca­tive cus­toms that may be dif­fer­ent from the read­ers’ own.

The illus­tra­tions, with their deep, rich col­ors and care­ful­ly cho­sen details, sug­gest a vibrant, Mid­dle East­ern world inhab­it­ed by a warm and car­ing com­mu­ni­ty. Exten­sive back­mat­ter includes infor­ma­tion about the hol­i­day, a ren­der­ing of a seder plate filled with tra­di­tion­al foods, a glos­sary of Hebrew and Per­sian terms, a cap­sule his­to­ry of Per­sian Jew­ry, and a recipe for Per­sian-style charoset, a sweet mix­ture that is one of the seder plate delicacies.

The art, the his­tor­i­cal back­ground, and the eas­i­ly relat­able sto­ry of good-natured, but live­ly, chil­dren com­bine to give this pic­ture book a spe­cial appeal.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

Discussion Questions