This is the Matzah

Abby Levine; Paige Billin-Frye, illus.
  • Review
By – August 6, 2012
The author – illus­tra­tor team that spun This Is the Drei­del (Whit­man, 2003) has cooked up a pleas­ant sto­ry about Passover and the Seder, told in rhyme with a repet­i­tive refrain that young chil­dren will enjoy. After a page-long expla­na­tion of the hol­i­day, the sto­ry begins with a lit­tle boy named Max shop­ping for Passover with his moth­er and sis­ter Ruth. As Max and Ruth begin to con­struct the Seder plate, there is a full-page pic­ture of it with each food iden­ti­fied. With the prepa­ra­tions com­plete, the fam­i­ly gath­ers and the text high­lights parts of the Seder, such as the dip­ping into salt water of pars­ley that we dip for the years we labored in slav­ery and shed salty tears…” After Grand­ma hides half of the afikomen, the read­ing of the Hag­gadah con­tin­ues, abbre­vi­at­ed and empha­siz­ing the haste of the Exo­dus and the ori­gins of matzah. In keep­ing with the Haggadah’s instruc­tions to look upon our­selves as hav­ing come out from Egypt, the text and illus­tra­tions show a fam­i­ly with chil­dren cross­ing the Red Sea and dwelling in the desert, using the pro­noun we” instead of they” or the Hebrews” and say­ing, Tonight we imag­ine that we are that band, res­cued from slav­ery by God’s out­stretched hand.” The sto­ry con­cludes with the search for the matzah, open­ing the door for Eli­jah, and Max think­ing about the matzah lasagna, matzah meal brown­ies, and matzah balls that he’ll be eat­ing through­out Passover. Large, soft­ly col­ored, car­toon-like illus­tra­tions reflect the text and help estab­lish the con­nec­tion between past and present. Well-paced and visu­al­ly inter­est­ing, This Is the Matzah is a worth­while addi­tion to Passover pic­ture books. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 4 – 8.
Lin­da R. Sil­ver is a spe­cial­ist in Jew­ish children’s lit­er­a­ture. She is edi­tor of the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries’ Jew­ish Val­ues­find­er, www​.ajl​jew​ish​val​ues​.org, and author of Best Jew­ish Books for Chil­dren and Teens: A JPS Guide (The Jew­ish Pub­li­ca­tion Soci­ety, 2010) and The Jew­ish Val­ues Find­er: A Guide to Val­ues in Jew­ish Children’s Lit­er­a­ture (Neal-Schu­man, 2008).

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