This charming picture book tackles the hot topic of immigration; Jewish immigration, not now, but then, not in the United States, but in Argentina. It is a warm story of a budding friendship set against the scenery of a new land and inside a close-knit family and will entertain and teach picture book readers. Action and humor undergird the tale so that readers learn without didactic overtones.
Jacob and his family have come from their crowded village in the Russian old country to the wide open spaces of the Argentine plains. Loose clothing makes tight outfits pass€; riding horseback rules over shoes made for walking. Holidays that everyone shared and valued are oddities to Jacob’s new countrymen. He loves Passover; he misses his friends, but he is willing to celebrate the Seder with his new pal, Benito. He mixes thoughts of yummy traditional food and annual prayers with dreams of his own lasso which papa says will come in handy if a stray calf enters when they open the door for Elijah. Through arguments with his sister as they prepare for the holiday the tension builds: will Benito come? When he does, he disrupts the evening by bringing chickens that burst into the house, causing havoc. All is set right. As the Seder resumes Benito notes the Argentine struggle for freedom as the family celebrates freedom from Pharaoh. Assimilation arises when the parents give their children new clothing typical in their new land and Jacob does the Four Questions in Hebrew and Spanish. An interesting end note reveals the back history is the 1880s Argentine colonies established for Russian Jews by Baron de Hirsch. Lovely art in muted colors parallels the text and underlines the message of the story geared to readers ages 5 – 7.