The Haggada may be Passover’s great book, but it’s not the only great thing to read this season. The start of spring brings with it a new stash of stories for all your bundles of joy.
For the younger set, children’s publishing giant Scholastic gives us “The Animals Went in Two by Two: A Noah’s Ark Pop-up Book” by Jan Pienkowski, a rhyming tale that can be sung to the tune of “The Ants Go Marching.” With brightly colored paper cut-outs and curious animals finding themselves in curious binds (“The animals went in four by four/ The great stegosaurus got stuck in the door”), this book is sure to keep the little ones singing through bedtime.
“My First Shabbat Book” (DK Publishing) uses the Sabbath as an opportunity for a number of “very first lessons”: There’s counting, via the seven days of creation, which also provide a chance for instruction in zoology and geology. The book walks the young reader through baking a challah and through appropriate activities for the seventh day: i.e. praying, family time and, of course, reading.
Emily Sper’s “The Passover Seder” (Scholastic) lets the young Seder guest “touch, turn, open, and learn” about what is for many families the ritual event of the year. Sper’s interactive book has moving cut-outs on every page that take the reader through the Seder, letting your child “break” the middle matzo, “spill” a drop of wine for each of the 10 plagues and “open” the door for Elijah. Bilingual bonus: The book includes the Hebrew words for key Seder terms, along with a transliteration and an English translation.
Children slightly older will enjoy the lushly illustrated “The Bachelor and the Bean” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) with text and pictures by first-time author Shelley Fowles. In a nice change from the usual Ashkenazic-centric fare, she retells a Moroccan-Jewish folk tale about a magic pot. When an irritable bachelor drops his last bean down a well, an imp appears with the pot, which he guarantees will give the grump any food he desires. The bachelor’s possession inspires a fit of jealousy in an old lady who steals the pot, and in one of life’s magical twists, the bachelor’s heart as well.
Forward contributor Lore Segal brings “Morris the Artist” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) to the children’s book scene, with animated, larger-than-life pictures by Boris Kulikov.
Our hero Morris is a painter-in-the-making, forced by his mother to tear himself away from his art to buy a birthday present for his friend Benjamin. When Morris arrives at Benjamin’s birthday party, present in tow, his is loath to give it up — until he realizes he is missing out on all the fun. Once Morris turns his present over and joins in, a fabulous, art-filled time is had by all.
For older kids — teenagers — Ze’ev Rosenkranz’s “The Einstein Scrapbook” (Johns Hopkins University) is packed with wisdom about the man who understood the universe. The book is filled with black-and-white photographs of the father of relativity, along with reprints of his letters. “Scrapbook” puts a human face on a legend and, like the holiday of Passover, chronicles an era in the history of the Jewish people.