As you can imagine, I have innumerable shelves of books in my office, but three entire shelves are filled with Passover books—children’s story books, adult reference books and Haggadahs (the text we read to tell us what to do during the Passover seder). Nonetheless, there are two books I rely on when getting ready to put together our Haggadah and seder.
The first, “Passover, Second Edition: The Family Guide to Spiritual Celebration” by Ron Wolfson and Joel Lurie Grishaver, is my touchstone. By providing a unique overview of the seder and including numerous ideas for seders with children, interfaith families and everything in between, Wolfson and Grishaver make the entire event manageable. By describing the Passover seder as a “play in four acts” and then breaking down each of the acts into four scenes, they turn what appears to be an overwhelming evening of reading and responses into exactly what it’s supposed to be–a learning experience for all ages.
My second pick, “A Night to Remember: The Haggadah of Contemporary Voices” by Mishael Zion and Noam Zion, provides me with new insights, readings and interesting activities for our guests, some of whom have been attending our seder for over 10 years. I rely on the authors to assist me with livening things up every year.
And here are some books that may help you liven up your Passover experiences too:
Children’s Passover Books:
- “Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Passover with Matzah, Maror, and Memories” by Deborah Heiligman. Part of National Geographic’s Holidays Around the World series, this book celebrates Passover in almost every country where Jews live. Beautiful pictures combine with clear, concise text to describe all the important steps of the Passover holiday. Ages 3-8.
- “Let My People Go!” by Tilda Balsley. This theater-style story can be read as a story with charming illustrations and enchanting verse, or, by using the instructions provided, roles can be assigned and individuals can read different parts of the story. Ages 3-10.
- “A Tale of Two Seders” by Mindy Avra Portnoy. When parents divorce, where children spend holidays is always an issue. In this reassuring book, the details have been worked out. Passover has two seders; each parent gets one. This is not to say that everything is perfect–there are new faces in both places and missing people as well. Nevertheless, when parents are in agreement to work it out, things generally turn out OK. Mom’s comparison of families to charoset is brilliant, and the addition of charoset recipes in the back of the book makes this well worth having on your shelf. Ages 4-8.
- “This is the Matzah” by Abby Levine. Using “The House that Jack Built” rhythm, we follow a family’s Passover preparations and join in their seder. Charming illustrations and the joy of a large, loving family including their children in getting ready for this major holiday brings the story alive. The repetitive text will captivate young ears as they wait to see what happens next. Ages 3-8.
- “My Very Own Haggadah: A Seder Service for Young Children” by Judyth Groner and Madeline Wikler. This is the first Haggadah we used when our children were small. It’s perfect for short attention spans. The entire seder can be done in a half hour, and all the essentials are covered. Many songs are sung, and your children can even use the Haggadah as a coloring book. Ages 2-10.
- “Sammy Spider’s First Haggadah” by Sylvia A. Rouss. For fans of Sammy Spider, this Haggadah is a delightful treat. Using rhymes and songs (with familiar melodies like “Frere Jacques” and “Old MacDonald”), preschool-age children will enjoy learning the Exodus story and celebrating their seder with Sammy. Ages 4-9.
- “A Children’s Haggadah” by Howard Bogot and Robert Orkand. This beautifully illustrated Haggadah tells the Exodus story in simple language yet covers all the seder bases. Ages 5-10.
- “A Family Haggadah: In Every Generation” by Shoshana Silberman. Children grow up, families demand tradition and your seder includes individuals of all ages. This Haggadah and its sequel, “A Family Haggadah II: All New Commentary,” is perfect for these circumstances. Containing a full seder text in Hebrew with translations and transliterations accompanied by activities, songs and commentary, this Haggadah adds meaning to the experience for every member of your family and can be personalized in a way that few others can. Ages 6-adult.
With a few plastic frogs and a little music, your Passover seder should be a rockin’ good time. Wishing you a warm and happy Passover filled with family and friends.