With Easter and Passover just around the corner, there's no better time to tell you about our awesome books for both occasions. If you're preparing for Easter or Passover celebrations, drop by the library to pick up some books that will reinforce both the fun and the importance of your holiday.
National Geographic Kids's Holidays Around the World series is inarguably the best children's series on holidays. Celebrate Easter With Colored Eggs, Flowers, and Prayer and Celebrate Passover With Matzah, Maror, and Memories are packed with beautiful photos and engaging information on how families around the world celebrate Easter or Passover. If you need a nonfiction Easter book for younger children, consider Gail Gibbons's Easter book, ideal for reading aloud to preschoolers and kindergartners.
When The Easter Egg was published in 2010, I was surprised that this was Jan Brett's first Easter book. Brett's elaborate and intricate illustrations of stories populated with animals lend themselves perfectly to Easter pastels that I had assumed that she had created an Easter tale in the past. Nevertheless, The Easter Egg was worth the wait, as this is a sweet story about a rabbit who wishes to help the Easter Bunny deliver eggs.
Deborah Underwood's series about an aspirational but lazy cat wanting to rule the holidays began with the hilarious Here Comes the Easter Cat! Cat is quite jealous of the fame and attention received by the Easter Bunny, so he wants in on the action. The work of the Easter Bunny is quite an undertaking, much to his surprise! This is genuinely laugh out loud funny; even your elementary school readers who think they are too old for short picture books will love this.
We have a number of stunningly illustrated picture books of Bible stories, but occasionally, the stunning illustrations are accompanied with the stunning poetry of the King James Bible. The KJV is a bedrock of Christian history and literature, but the language is quite difficult for young readers and listeners to comprehend. On That Easter Morning is a simple yet gorgeously illustrated retelling of the Gospel accounts of the Christian Holy Week.
Anyone can dye Easter eggs, but Ukrainian style Easter eggs take Easter egg decorating to another stratosphere. Patricia Polacco's tale of a elderly Russian woman and a goose that lays mysterious eggs is joyfully told and brilliantly illustrated. If you want an Easter story for readers that have outgrown charming picture book stories about bunnies, Rechenka's Eggs is for you.
Seeking a Bunny is one of the best Easter read alouds I've read in some time; all the attributes of the ideal bunny for Easter are charmingly depicted in this adorable board book.
Nonfiction books with photographs are always an instant draw for children; It's Seder Time! features photos of a preschool class preparing for their school's Seder and acting out the Passover story. This endearing read aloud is a winner for families that celebrate Passover, or for families wanting to introduce the holiday to their children.
Normally, I don't care for rewrites of The Little Red Hen story, but The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah is such a funny and spot-on depiction of "performing a mitzvah (good deed)" that I love it. If you know anything about keeping kosher for Passover, you know that it's a tremendous undertaking. Unfortunately, Little Red Hen is not finding any help for making the matzah (unleavened bread), but of course, all her friends want to eat it when it is ready. The traditional story ends with the Little Red Hen eating the bread with her family (or by herself), but this Little Red Hen knows that the Haggadah (the readings recited for Passover) says to let all who are hungry eat, and that Passover is a family/community celebration. So, her no-goodnik friends join the celebration (and as a mitzvah, help her clean up after the meal!). Yiddish words are scattered throughout the story (a glossary is included), as well as a short essay about Passover, and a matzah recipe!
If I were to name my favorite Passover picture book, there's no question that The Passover Lamb would be #1. Miriam is super excited for this year's Passover, because it means that she is finally old enough to ask the Four Questions recited during the Seder (tradition is that the youngest child is expected to memorize and recite this section of the Seder). However, anyone who knows anything about farm life knows that animal birthing and infant care is unpredictable and delicate, which is the case when triplet lambs are born on Miriam's family farm! The lambs require around-the-clock care, as the mother lamb only has enough milk for two babies; the family's participation in her grandparents' Seder is in jeopardy. As Passover is a crucial holiday for Miriam's observant Jewish family, she creates an unusual plan for the family to care for the lambs AND celebrate Passover--which just might work! Linda Marshall based this story on her actual farm life, which adds relevance and truth to the tale.
Children's books about Passover usually only focus on American and/or Israeli families, but Passover Around the World shows that Passover is celebrated by Jewish families in India, Turkey, Ethiopia, and more! Even those familiar with Passover will find this eye-opening and fascinating.
The Yankee at the Seder is one of the most remarkable Passover books that we have; as a Jewish Confederate family prepares to observe Passover the day after the Civil War has ended, a Jewish Union soldier appears on their doorstep. Although the family and solider are at opposite ends of the war, Jacob's parents invite him inside, as it is a tradition to welcome and honor guests at the Seder table. Jacob is confused and furious, while the solider and the family discuss and argue about the real meaning of Passover, freedom from government vs. freedom from slavery, and how victors should not relish the suffering of the defeated. Based on a story told by a Jewish Union soldier who found himself in a Virginia town during Passover, this is a mature, throughtful, and unique perspective on Jewish life during the Civil War.
Want more nonfiction for Easter and Passover? Check out the J 266 and J 296 sections.
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library