PJ Library sent us Is It Passover Yet? last year. It’s written by Chris Barash, illustrated by Alessandra Psacharopulo and Published by Albert Whitman & Company. I have reviewed books from PJ Library before but just to repeat, they are a fabulous organisation who send out books about Judaism to children up to the age of 8.
The Jewish festival of Passover (Pesach) is a week long festival celebrating the Jewish people escaping from slavery in Egypt. It falls in the spring time, usually at the same time as Easter but not always.
Is It Passover Yet? is a lovely book that follows two children looking for signs that Passover is due to start. They begin by spotting the change of the seasons outside from winter to spring and then move into their house to see the preparations getting underway for the festival. Passover requires quite a large amount of preparation by Jewish families, during the week of Passover we don’t eat any food that contains yeast or anything that rises or swells when it is cooked. To prepare for this, many Jewish families completely clean their houses to remove any trace of food like this (we call it leavened food or chamtez in Hebrew) some families have completely separate sets of crockery, cutlery and cooking utensils to use just for this week. So the whole premise of this book, of gradually building up to Passover reflects this feeling of preparation for a big event in many Jewish homes.
The text is written in rhyme with each verse ending with “Passover is on its way.” This lovely bit of repetition helps to build up the general feeling of excitement of the festival starting soon. Passover starts with a feast called a Seder, this a large meal to share with family and friends and involves lots of traditional songs and rituals. At the end of this book the children’s family members start to arrive for their Seder and the end of the last verse changes to “Passover is here!”
The illustrations are beautiful, in soft pastel colours they reflect the world waking up in spring time and a happy and joyful occasion with family. I love the little details in the pictures such as items you will find in a Jewish house, menorahs (7 branched candlesticks) and tzdekah boxes (a tin to collect money for charity). It’s a great touch for my children who can recognise and relate to the items and a springboard for children who aren’t Jewish and want to find out more.
We have been reading this book recently as Passover is most definitely on its way and we are starting to prepare at home. But it’s a great book to read any time to introduce and talk to children about the festival.
The preparations for Passover involve lots of cleaning and washing, these can be hard tasks to carry out with little people under your feet but I have discovered that they really like “helping” with it. You can give a toddler a clean duster or cloth and ask them to wipe any surface or object that you can see. They really enjoy copying the grown ups actions and having a new task to do. It may keep them occupied for a few minutes but just don’t expect them to have actually cleaned anything!
Here’s a couple of ways I set up cleaning and washing activities for my two boys:
My baby boy is 9 months old so loves exploring objects, hitting, grabbing, eating etc. So I collected a few different items for him to “wash the dishes”. I used some of our play items as well as some from the kitchen. I focused on different textures and materials and included a couple of paper plates too so he could see how they would change when they got wet. I got a clean sponge and brush and a big bowl to put a small amount of water in and set him free to explore!
Be very careful which items you give to a baby – all these items are clean and haven’t been used for cleaning so there are no chemicals on them. Also, no sharp items and Of course supervise your baby at all times.
My bigger boy is three so I set him up a little challenge for sweeping up. I placed piles of three different foods on the floor – flour, bread and pasta (these are all foods that are chametz so need to be cleaned away for Passover) I got two of our brushes, a short handled one and a long handled one, for him to try out. All three items will sweep up differently so I let him explore how easy each one was to sweep.
In an attempt to keep some kind of order to it I taped some ribbon on the floor in a rectangle for the items to be swept into.
I think he did pretty well…
Both these activities end up creating mess for you to clear up afterwards but I think they are worth it for the fun they have exploring and for them to be involved in getting the house ready for Passover.