Matzah Man to the Rescue!

  • Review
By – April 8, 2024

After days if not weeks of prepa­ra­tion, the Passover seder is final­ly ready. But wait — some­thing is miss­ing! As any super­hero fan knows, some sit­u­a­tions call for spe­cial pow­ers, espe­cial­ly when a shank bone is miss­ing or the charoset can­not be found. In Eric A. Kim­mel and Char­lie Fowkes’s new book, Matzah Man is pre­pared to address any cir­cum­stance that threat­ens to delay the Fes­ti­val of Freedom.

This graph­ic nov­el is divid­ed into chap­ters, build­ing read­ers’ excite­ment and intro­duc­ing them to dif­fer­ent Jew­ish cul­tures around the world. Matzah Man is dressed in tra­di­tion­al super­hero garb, with a blue mem embla­zoned on his shirt that match­es his iden­ti­ty-con­ceal­ing mask. Begin­ning his jour­ney in Matza­hville, whose wel­come sign is rem­i­nis­cent of mid­cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can graph­ics, Matzah Man is con­front­ed with a cat who has con­sumed the shank bone. Although fam­i­ly mem­bers believe it’s irre­place­able, Matzah Man assures them that a beet or car­rot would be a fine substitute.

Then, a frum fam­i­ly in Jerusalem los­es their matzah to some hun­gry mice. Matzah Man is armed with every vari­ety of the unleav­ened bread, includ­ing the strict­ly pre­pared shmu­rah vari­ety. When a Moroc­can grand-père and grand-mère find them­selves with­out charoset, each assum­ing that the oth­er has pre­pared it, the pos­si­bly Ashke­nazi Matzah Man can’t sup­ply them with the dates they need for their spe­cial recipe. But not to wor­ry: he search­es on his phone and quick­ly locates some. The best loca­tion is San Diego, Cal­i­for­nia, a city whose dis­tance does not deter Matzah Man. Both text and image demon­strate the inter­con­nect­ed­ness of the Jew­ish world on a deeply sig­nif­i­cant holiday.

Every super­hero is vul­ner­a­ble, and Matzah Man is no excep­tion. Even­tu­al­ly, his glob­al trav­els deplete his ener­gy before he has had time to assem­ble enough matzah balls for every­one who needs them. When Eli­jah the Prophet shows up to help, look­ing like a beloved zayde with his beard and sun­glass­es, one of the seder guests plays a cru­cial role. Young read­ers — and maybe even old­er ones — will have oppor­tu­ni­ties to learn about dif­fer­ent cus­toms that ful­fill the mitzvot of Passover. This book’s empa­thy and humor open the door to a vision of free­dom that, unlike a shank bone, can­not be replaced.

Emi­ly Schnei­der writes about lit­er­a­ture, fem­i­nism, and cul­ture for TabletThe For­wardThe Horn Book, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions, and writes about chil­dren’s books on her blog. She has a Ph.D. in Romance Lan­guages and Literatures.

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