The Jewish festival of Passover falls in the spring and celebrates the Jewish people being freed from slavery in Egypt. The story of Passover tells us that when the Jews left Egypt they left in such a hurry they didn’t have time to let their bread rise. Instead, they ate unleavened bread called matzah. The festival lasts for a whole week and begins with a big celebration and meal called a seder. Families spend a lot of time preparing for the festival including cleaning all traces of bread or similar foods (known as chamtez) from their houses and during the week of Passover Jews can only eat foods that are unleavened.
As always we have some excellent Passover reading material to share with you, enough to last the whole week.
Is It Passover Yet by Chris Barash, illustrated by Alessandro Psacharopulo and published by Albert Whitman & Company.
We love this series of books that link the different seasons to the Jewish festivals that happen at that time of year. Passover is usually around the same time as Easter so this story is all about spring.
In this book we follow two children as they happily spot the signs of spring appearing and also recognise that Passover is nearly here. As well as spotting lots of items used at Passover there are plenty of other things in the family’s home that Jewish children may recognise and relate to. A beautiful book written in rhyme with soft, pastel illustrations. Perfect to read in the run up to Passover.
Buy Is It Passover Yet? from Wordery.
Engineer Ari and the Passover Rush by Deborah Bodin Cohen, illustrated by Shahar Kober and published by Kar-Ben Publishing.
Ari is a train driver in Israel and in the last few hours before Passover starts he finds himself racing all over the place to ensure everything is ready for the seder. He’s fast running out of time but happily meets friends on the way who offer to help, with Ari promising them a box of matzah from Jerusalem on his way home. A great way to teach children all about the different items used at Passover with the added bonus of a huge shiny red steam engine!
Buy Engineer Ari and the Passover Rush from Wordery.
Company’s Coming by Joan Holub, illustrated by Renee Andriani and published by Puffin Books.
Preparing for the Passover seder is a big job, there is so much to do and Jewish houses are often bustling with excitement and anticipation. This is a sweet rhyming book with lots of flaps to lift revealing more information and funny illustrations. There is a great double page spread of the seder plate with a flap to lift on each of the 6 foods helping to explain the significance of them all. Written from the point of view of a young child this is a great book to introduce and explain all the main parts of the seder.
Buy Company’s Coming from Wordery.
Passover Scavenger Hunt by Shanna Silva, illustrated by Miki Sakamoto and published by Kar-Ben Publishing.
One of the highlights of the Passover seder for children is when a piece of matzah, called the afikomen, is hidden somewhere in the house. The seder can’t go on until the afikomen is eaten so the child who finds it can use it as a bargaining tool with the adults and usually end up trading it for a present. In this story, Rachel decides to make the hunt for the afikomen more fun with a treasure hunt. Lively and fun this story also teaches about lots of the other traditions of Passover through Rachel’s rhyming clues.
Buy Passover Scavenger Hunt from Wordery.
Kayla and Kugel’s Almost Perfect Passover by Ann D. Koffsky, published by Apples & Honey Press.
Kayla is helping her family prepare for Passover but her clumsy and high-spirited dog Kugel is always making a mess. He spills her glue pot when she’s trying to make her own haggadah cover, he knocks over a glass of the special grape juice and finally takes it upon himself to hide the afikomen. Kayla and her family look all over for it until eventually Kugel reveals where he’s put it. The family finish off their seder by singing traditional songs with Kugel joining in of course.
Buy Kayla and Kugel’s Almost Perfect Passover from Wordery.
Lotsa Matzah by Tilda Balsley, illustrated by Akemi Gutierrez, published by Kar-Ben Publishing.
Why is matzah flat? Why do we eat it at Passover? An upbeat rhyming text and cheerful illustrations make this a perfect board book to introduce very young children to the story of Passover and how it is celebrated.
Buy Lotsa Matzah from Wordery.
A Sweet Passover by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by David Slonim and published by Abrams Books.
One traditional and simple food that is often eaten during Passover is matzah brei, similar to French toast but with matzah instead of bread. In A Sweet Passover Miriam learns how to make matzah brei with her Grandpa. Beautifully sentimental with an informative message about the importance of eating matzah during Passover. You can find our recipe for matzah brei here.
We love the inclusion of Yiddish words and phrases (Yiddish is a language that was spoken by Jews from Eastern Europe and much of it has become part of Jewish families general vocabulary) as it’s always lovely to spot things that mean something to us in picture books. For those who don’t understand any Yiddish there is a handy glossary at the back.
Buy A Sweet Passover from Wordery.
The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Paul Meisel and published by Holiday House.
In this reworking of the traditional Little Red Hen story our hen is preparing for Passover and asks her farmyard friends to help her. They all refuse, but of course appear at her door when it is time for the seder and they have no food. The Little Red Hen almost turns them away but she remembers the words from the Passover Haggadah: “Let all who are hungry come and eat.”
Light-hearted and with very sweet illustrations this book provides lots to talk about with little ones. Our favourite picture is of hen’s three little chicks sitting down with their tiny kippot on their heads. With a main character that embodies all those stereotypes of a Jewish matriarch that we know and love, this is a perfect book to share with family at Pesach.
Buy The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah from Wordery.
Sammy Spider’s First Passover by Sylvia A. Rouss, illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn and published by Kar-Ben Publishing.
The Sammy Spider books follow a young spider who lives in the house of a Jewish family. In this book Sammy is intrigued when the family suddenly start cleaning the house from top to bottom. His mother explains that they are preparing for Passover and Sammy watches with interest, learning all the traditions and enjoying the celebrations.
As well as learning all about Passover, this book also teaches children shapes with Sammy and his mother weaving different shapes in their web before they all come together to make a six-point Star of David.
Buy Sammy Spider’s First Passover from Wordery.
Max Makes a Cake by Michelle Edwards, illustrated by Charles Santoso and published by Penguin Random House.
With no regular flour allowed to be eaten during Passover finding substitute foods can sometimes be a challenge, especially when it comes to treats like cakes and biscuits. In this story Max is desperate to make a surprise birthday cake for his mummy with a special Passover cake mix. The only trouble is he needs his dad’s help but his baby sister just won’t go down for her nap and let them get on! In his impatience he invents a new kind of Passover cake with plenty of jam and matzah. It’s just the sort of cake you can imagine a small person coming up with and we may just try it this year…
Although if you are looking for a more typical sort of cake to bake during Passover then we found this delicious hazelnut torte recipe from Annette Gendler, using her grandmother’s recipe.
Many thanks to PJ Library who sent us most of these titles as part of their free subscription scheme.
Many thanks to Kar Ben Publishing for allowing us to use their images of Lotsa Matzah, Engineer Ari and the Passover Rush and Passover Scavenger Hunt.
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