While mixing rodents with food might not seem appealing, this is a very cute story: Acton-based author Joy Wieder’s debut picture book, “The Passover Mouse” (Doubleday Books for Young Readers), is out this week with an inaugural reading early next month in Concord.
Illustrated by Israeli artist Shahar Kober, the book tells a Talmud-based story of a small Jewish village attacked by furtive, hungry mice before Passover. Lonely widow Rivka is cleaning her home to prepare for her seder, ridding it of leavened food, or chametz, when a furry white mouse appears and scurries off with a piece of bread. It races from house to house with the forbidden bread, and more mice join the party…until a feline springs into action and eats them all. The villagers are forced to scrub their homes from top to bottom, but not for naught: Rivka is so thankful for the help that she invites her neighbors to her home for the seder, and for one night, she’s no longer alone.
Wieder began writing when her children were young, spurred by her mother’s death.
“It just really hit me: Life is short. This is my dream, and I’ve got to go for it,” she says.
She had the mouse idea for years, and was turned down before. She credits PJ Library for creating a reinvigorated market for Jewish kids’ books.
“PJ Library collaborated with the Society of Jewish Book Writers and Illustrators, and they had contests for Jewish stories because PJ Library needed more. So I dusted it off. What did I have to lose? I sent it off. And this manuscript won an honorable mention,” she says. An agent took it on, and her editor loved it.
“I want the traditions of Passover to be passed to the next generation. And this is a story where the adage ‘it takes a village’ is applicable, because they all pitched in and helped,” she says.
There’s even a glossary of Jewish terms and an explanation of chametz.
Visit with Joy Wieder on Sunday, Feb. 9, at 3 p.m. at The Concord Bookshop, with more events coming soon.