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.ajljewishvalues.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).