Life & Culture

Dinosaurs at the Seder table

Angela Kiverstein’s pick of this week’s new Jewish books


v Pesach is approaching and the tyrannosaurus has tsuris (Yiddish for troubles). None of the other dinosaurs will come to his seder because they are frightened of being eaten. T-Rex complains loudly, but the other dinosaurs have problems too – large-scale catering problems. Elissambura’s illustrations are bristling with spines, teeth and humour. Tyrannosaurus Tsuris by Susan Tarcov, illustrated by Elissambura (Kar-Ben, £14.60) offers a hilarious prehistoric take on festival preparations, while capturing the Yiddishe angst of the Seder host. It will be equally appreciated by kids up to seven and parents reading aloud.

Workitu isn’t looking forward to Passover. In her community in Ethiopia, it’s customary to smash one’s chametz dishes in the run-up to the festival and this upsets her. But when Workitu’s aunt shows her how the crushed pottery can be incorporated into new vessels, Workitu sees how dishes (and traditions) can be handed down the generations and remade as something new and beautiful. Workitu’s Passover by Zahava Workitu Goshen and Maayan Ben Hagai, translated by Jessica Bonn (Green Bean Books, £10.99) is based on Goshen’s childhood memories. Eden Spivak’s illustrations bring the setting to life, with well observed domestic details, plants and endearing animals to spot.

The afikomen hunt, many kids’ favourite part of the seder, is the focus of Afikotective by Amalia Hoffman (Kar-Ben, £14.60), is a board book about a family of bears. Grandma hides the afikomen and the smallest bear sets out on a detective mission, using an ‘afiko-sniffer’ made by adapting a toy elephant. Under-fives will engage with the little bear’s quest, while learning about Pesach foods.

Everybody’s Book by Linda Leopold Strauss, with beautifully detailed illustrations by Tim Smart (Kar-Ben, £14.60) is the moving story of the Sarajevo Haggadah. The Haggadah survives the Inquisition, Nazi invasion, bombings and fire; it travels from country to country and is protected by Christians and Muslims as well as Jews. It accumulates stains and children’s jottings – and it becomes a symbol of survival. One for the whole family to share around the seder table.

Green Bean Books and the Jewish Literary Foundation have announced the winners of the third Jewish Children’s Book Awards. Winner of the writing prize is Julie Form, from Germany, for Moses the Matzah Sparrow. Winner of the illustration prize is Ukranian-born designer Julia Krasovitksy. 

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