This Passover, celebrate the holiday by reading these four timeless picture books, which can help little ones understand the meaning of the holiday. Kids will love to help you make the accompanying recipes: Matzo Bread, Matzo Brei, Matzo Balls for Chicken Soup and Passover Toffee, dishes with traditional Jewish ingredients that children and adults alike can make to celebrate the holiday that begins Friday and ends April 7.
Emily Young, Times correspondent
From The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Paul Meisel
We all know how the story of the Little Red Hen ends. It’s a tale of yeasty revenge, as the industrious Little Red Hen gobbles up her homemade bread and leaves nothing for her lazy friends. Kids familiar with the folktale will expect the same ending to The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah, which is why this book’s twist is even more heartwarming. (Note: "Matzo" is sometimes spelled "matzah," or even "matzoh.") In this retelling, the Little Red Hen tries to enlist her friends (Dog, Sheep and Horse) to help her make a seder dinner. As usual, they’re too self-involved to lend a hand (or a paw, or a hoof). But when the meal is finally ready, they beg to eat it. "What chutzpah!" the Little Red Hen exclaims. Does she invite them inside? You’ll have to read the book to find out. For those unfamiliar with the holiday, a glossary helpfully explains Passover foods like gefilte fish, or fish patties. Kids will love the humorous repetition and the lovable illustrations of the animals. Even better, the book includes a kid-friendly recipe for how to make your own matzo bread.
From A Sweet Passover by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by David Slonim
Miriam is sick of eating matzo: "plain matzo, egg matzo, whole wheat matzo, and chocolate-covered matzo." On the last day of Passover, she crosses her arms and refuses to swallow another bite. That’s when her grandfather teaches her how to make Passover French Toast, or Matzo Brei. He combines eggs and milk with softened matzo, fries it in sizzling butter and serves it with a choice of sweet or savory toppings: maple syrup, sugar and cinnamon, sour cream. Along the way, she learns that "even the plainest food eaten in freedom tastes sweeter than the fanciest food eaten in slavery." David Slonim’s illustrations, done in acrylic and charcoal, depict the characters with warmth and humor. By the end, you and your kids will be drooling for a bite of matzo brei. The good news? Lesléa Newman has included her father’s recipe in the back, so you can make it yourself.
Matzo Balls for Chicken Soup
From Hooray! It’s Passover! by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by John Himmelman
Told from the perspective of a young girl, this picture book depicts the rituals of a family’s seder dinner. The colorful illustrations are half the fun. Try counting how many striped orange cats sneak onto each page: dashing under the piano, trying to swipe a bite of matzo and eyeing the gefilte fish. The story itself is told in simple, easy-to-read language, appropriate for very young children (3 to 6 years old) who are just learning about the holiday. To re-create the chicken soup and matzo balls the family enjoys, try this recipe for matzo balls from the New York Times. You can prepare the matzo balls in advance and freeze them, then add to your favorite soup recipe.
From Celebrate Passover by Deborah Heiligman
This National Geographic book is an excellent introduction to the traditions of Passover. Kids will appreciate the glossy, full-color photographs, which depict how children celebrate the holiday around the world. It’s written in conversational language, as if the children in the photographs are explaining the holiday to their new friends. Your mouth will water after reading the detailed list of Passover foods: "chicken soup with matzo balls, brisket, turkey with matzo stuffing, roast lamb, gefilte fish, caper-sauce fish, eggplant stew, leek soup, stewed prunes, sweet carrot tzimmes, and haroset." After reading, make sure to try the recipe for Passover Toffee, included near the end of the book.