Ben­jy’s Messy Room

  • Review
By – April 15, 2024

This sweet fam­i­ly sto­ry illus­trates the tra­di­tion­al require­ment to remove all leav­en, even crumbs, from the house the night before Passover starts. Removal is per­formed after dark by the light of a can­dle, with a spe­cif­ic prayer and the antique imple­ments of a feath­er and spoon. In this sto­ry, mid­dle child Ben­jy wants to hold the can­dle and lead the hunt. To do so, he must clean up his bed­room floor, which is cov­ered with toys. Old­er sis­ter Nao­mi taunts him, telling him he will nev­er get the chore done in time. Baby sis­ter Shi­ra cries because every­one in the house­hold is so busy prepar­ing for the hol­i­day that they’ve left her with no play­mates. Ben­jy agrees to play with her before he starts to clean. He cre­ates a mock bread­crumb hunt using paper balls.

While his baby sis­ter eager­ly wan­ders about his room find­ing them, he sings the bless­ing, which she learns from rep­e­ti­tion. As it gets dark, they use a flash­light. Their chants sum­mon Nao­mi back to the room, where she dis­cov­ers that Shi­ra knows the prayer. Not only that, she’s been pick­ing up Benjy’s toys as she’s searched for the fake bread­crumbs. Nao­mi agrees to help fin­ish clean­ing so Ben­jy can lead the hunt. The sto­ry ends with Ben­jy get­ting his wish and the lov­ing fam­i­ly cel­e­brat­ing togeth­er. The end­note explains chametz, a word not includ­ed in the sto­ry itself.

While this pic­ture book is clear­ly for Jew­ish read­ers who are famil­iar with Passover, the end­note cap­tures the uni­ver­sal themes of being over­whelmed by a big chore and get­ting into a hol­i­day mood. Chametz hunt­ing meets sib­ling bond­ing in this cute and infor­ma­tive read.

Ellen G. Cole, a retired librar­i­an of the Levine Library of Tem­ple Isa­iah in Los Ange­les, is a past judge of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Awards and a past chair­per­son of that com­mit­tee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excel­lence in Jew­ish Children’s Lit­er­a­ture. Ellen is the recip­i­ent of two major awards for con­tri­bu­tion to Juda­ic Librar­i­an­ship, the Fan­ny Gold­stein Mer­it Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroed­er Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. She is on the board of AJLSC.

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