About a week ago, I presented Eli and Viv with a stack of children’s books. I asked, “What do you want to keep; what should I sell.” Interestingly the “keep” pile was higher than the “sell” pile. Jenny and Diane added a few keeps from the kids sell. Last year I reread about 100 photograph books before offering most for sale. This is the beginning of a program to reread and sell children’s books.
Most of the children’s books I have were bought when I taught social studies education. One class was always devoted to children’s literature. After years of borrowing books from Phyllis Gallagher, I decided to buy. By the time Eli and Viv were born, I had quite a collection.
Before I put them in the sell pile, I will read- reread them.
I started with “The Secret Seder” by Doreen Rappaport. A small boy, Jacques, travels with his father to a secret Passover Seder dinner in a small village in France. Although the family pretends to be Catholic, they maintain their beliefs and Jacques is determined to celebrate the holiday, commemorating the Israelites journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom.
Jacques and his father pass through the village frightened by the clicking on the cobblestone of the black-booted Nazi soldiers. Eventually in a mountain cottage they celebrate a Passover Seder with other locals. Jacques “puts Mama’s roasted egg on the table.” There are cups of wine, matzah, and the four questions. “Why is this night different from all other nights?” An old man tells the story of Passover as recorded in the Haggadah. There are prayers and quiet singing. The Seder ends; Jacques and his father make their way home.
As with many history orientated children’s books, the author has several pages explaining the context of the book. From 1939 to 1945 more than six million Jews and three million other Europeans were murdered, died or starved in concentration camps. “We call this terrible time in history the Holocaust, or Shoah.” Pesach or Passover celebrates liberation and rebirth; it lasts for eight days and eight nights. The Seder commemorates the bitterness of slavery and the sweetness of freedom.
“The Secret Seder” was based on real events. Like most good children’s books, the illustrations by Emily Arnold McCully add a beautiful visual dimension. Children’s books sometimes give us a fantastic introduction to a topic. For me Passover, a Jewish holiday, happens about the same time as the Christian Easter. The story through children’s eyes, is a great introduction to Passover.