The Passover Guest

Holiday House/Neal Porter. Jan. 2021. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823445622.
Gr 2-4–Inspired by the I.L. Peretz story behind Uri Shulevitz’s The Magician, this book chronicles a poor family living through the Great Depression on the night of Passover. April 10, 1933, was a Passover like no other; in the depths of the Great Depression, many families could not afford to hold a true seder. Because her family’s table is empty, a young Jewish girl named Muriel spends the day admiring the blooming cherry blossoms along the National Mall in Washington, DC. A chance encounter with a mysterious stranger begins a series of events that lead to a full Passover dinner shared by the entire neighborhood. Only Muriel notices the absence of the stranger—and Elijah’s empty wine glass—at the end of the evening. Filled with references to the holiday and accompanying traditions, this is a superb addition to modern celebrations. People of various races appear in the background even as the story focuses on a Jewish neighborhood. Abundant details—taking viewers from shtetl to the Capitol, for example—fill every page, enhancing the story’s emotions through color and texture. The length of the text makes this story well suited for older children. A short notes section at the end of the book explains more about the holiday and gives readers a glimpse behind the author’s and illustrator’s choices.
VERDICT Kusel’s charming debut is a necessary volume for every holiday collection.

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