In this photo-essay style picture book, a young child narrates her experience celebrating Passover in the desert of Moab, Utah with the “Adventure Rabbi” Jamie Korngold. At this non-traditional Seder, participants hike through the desert, just like the Israelites. The Seder meal is served desert style, on long stretches of fabric set on the ground along the Colorado River. Families in hiking clothes sit together with their water bottles alongside their Kiddush cups. Children are pictured with the traditional symbols of the Seder plate accompanied by typical explanations as well as some additional tidbits. For example, the reader will learn that parsley is not only a reminder of spring but as “one of the hardiest herbs of the garden, it also recalls how strong the Jewish people had to be to survive in the desert.” The significance of Miriam’s Cup is also included. A Torah is unrolled from a backpack and the story of Exodus is read aloud under the Corona Arch. Everyone dances, like Miriam, with tambourines as they sing “Dayenu.” At the conclusion of the Seder, the group hikes back down the mountain to perform Havdalah. They then build a campfire and “sing songs beneath a full moon and hope to celebrate Passover in the desert again.” The large, full-color photographs beautifully depict the exquisite desert scenery as well as the warmth and spirit of this unique community and are a perfect complement to the descriptive, yet concise, text. Seder in the Desert joins other picture books such as New Year at the Pier: A Rosh Hashanah Story by April Halprin Wayland (Dial, 2009), Menorah Under the Sea by Esther Susan Heller (Kar-Ben, 2009),and A Song for My Sister by Lesley Simpson (Random House, 2012) in introducing readers to contemporary, progressive communities celebrating Jewish holidays and rituals in new and creative ways. Additional photos, as well as registration information, for this annual event can be found at www.AdventureRabbi. org, but even those less adventurous will be inspired to look at the holiday in a new way. Recommended for ages 3 – 8.
Rachel Kamin is the Director of the Joseph and Mae Gray Cultural & Learning Center at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, Illinois. A past chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, Rachel is currently the co-editor of Book Reviews for Children & Teens for the Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter. She holds a BA in history from Grinnell College and a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Michigan.