It comes as no surprise to find out that the author of this impressive picture book debut is also a history teacher. She must be a good one, because she has a natural ability to make history come alive for young readers. This seemingly simple tale of a corporal from Philadelphia being invited to a Virginia Seder the day after Robert E. Lee surrendered, is a many-layered story that draws the reader in from its first page. The tension is palpable as we consider the discomforts that were surely felt around the finely set Seder table that day. The amiable young soldier sees the Passover saga as a sign of his righteous cause, while the Southern family patriarch relishes the custom of pouring a bit of wine from the glass (when reciting the ten plagues), saying victors should not feel completely at ease, “knowing that other people have suffered.” The appealing, realistic oil paintings in dark browns and blues characterize the time and place well. The author’s notes at the end of the book which are entitled, “The Real Story”, inform us that, “During the war, six to nine thousand Jews fought for the North and about two thousand Jews fought for the South.” We also find out that this book is based on the story of Myer Samuel Levy, a Union corporal, who had found himself in a Virginia town for Passover and told the story to his family. Even if it were not based on truth, the idea that being Jewish seems to trump even the tragedy of wartime differences is reassuring. This book can be appreciated at many levels — even in high school classes — and will provide much thoughtful discussion about the nature of what the holiday of Passover truly represents. Ages 6 – 10.
Lisa Silverman is director of Sinai Temple’s Blumenthal Library in Los Angeles and a former day school librarian. She is the former children’s book review editor of Jewish Book World.