As parents we spend a lot of time setting boundaries with our kids to help keep them safe. Young children understand concepts like choice and when they're allowed to make one and they also understand the feeling of wanting something but not being allowed to have it. As a concept, freedom is harder for children to understand and for parents to explain in a succinct and easy way.
Since freedom, or cheirut in Hebrew, is a central component of the Passover story, and asking questions is an encouraged (and fun) part of Passover, your kids may be inspired by the seder to explore the idea of freedom further. The following books illustrate what freedom is, and isn't, in a tangible way that lets kids steer the discussion.
Beautiful Yetta: The Yiddish Chicken by Daniel Pinkwater
Yetta escapes from her cage and finds herself lost in the big city. Thanks to the kindness of strangers, and a few new friends, Yetta settles in and enjoys her new life. This book is a fun way to introduce Yiddish to young children and also includes wonderful messages and themes about accepting others.
Black Radishes by Susan Lynn Meyer
Gustave and his family are French Jews, living in Paris in 1940, until they are forced to flee to the unoccupied zone. With the help of the French Resistance and some black radishes that the German soldiers particularly enjoy, Gustave and his family eventually manage to escape to America. This book is best suited for middle grade readers, ages 10 and up.
Dave at Night by Gail Carson Levine
Based on the real-life experiences of children who were wards of the Hebrew Orphans Association, Dave at Night follows a young man struggling after the loss of his family. Challenged by poor conditions, bullies and a terrifying headmaster, Dave manages to foster friendships both inside and outside the orphanage walls, finding that true family is not limited to actual relations. This middle grade book is best for PJ Our Way readers, ages 9-11.
Exodus by Brian Wildsmith
Faithfully told in a dramatic voice, Exodus begins with Moses’s mother placing her baby in a basket of reeds and hiding him among the bulrushes, and ends with Joshua leading the Hebrew people into the Promised Land. Families will be drawn in by the intricate drawings and lavish gold leaf pages.
The Legend of Freedom Hill by Linda Jacobs Altman
This award-winning historical fiction book follows two friends work together to earn the money to free the mother of one of the girls from a slave trader.
The Longest Night by Laurel Snyder
Told through the eyes of a young slave girl, The Longest Night depicts the full Passover story in verse. Readers learn the story of Pharoah, Moses, the 10 plagues, and the parting of the Red Sea, in a gentle and age appropriate manner.
Mrs. Kaputnik’s Pool Hall and Matzo Ball Emporium by Rona Arato
Ruth Kapustin and her children are living hand-to-mouth in a tiny Russian village as Papa Kapustin chases his fortune in America. When a mysterious peddler’s egg hatches into a fire-breathing dragon their luck begins to change. The symbolism of Passover and freedom are major underlying themes: the family leaves the shtetl (small Jewish village) on Passover eve to journey to America where they can finally live freely.
Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim by Deborah Bodin Cohen
Nachshon is the first Israelite to reach the Red Sea, unfortunately, he is terrified of swimming. Inspired by Moses and filled with new courage, Nachson plunges into the water, encouraging others to follow.
The Storyteller's Beads by Jane Kurtz
This is a beautifully written story about two Ethiopian girls from very different backgrounds: Rahel is blind and from the Beta-Israel (Jewish) community; Sahay is an orphan and from the Kemant (Christian) community. The girls overcome their prejudices and learn to love and trust each other during their dangerous and difficult journey across Ethiopia and the Sudan.
March 22, 2017