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It’s almost Passover, and that means it’s time for young children to brush up on their reading skills. Why? So they can ask the four questions at the family seder!

But right now, I have to ask Rachelle Burk four questions about her new book, THE BEST FOUR QUESTIONS! *ba-da-bum*

Rachelle, for those who aren’t familiar with the Passover Seder, what are the “Four Questions”?

The focal point of the Passover Seder is the telling of the story of the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt. This storytelling begins with the youngest person at the Seder asking the Four Questions, which are actually four parts of a single question: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” This leads into the story of the days of slavery and the Exodus.

Why is the youngest at the Seder supposed to ask them?

The youngest asks the Four Questions so that they will be an active participant in the Seder. In fact, many of the activities done at the Seder are intended to keep the children involved. The reason that the Seder is geared around the children is to pass on responsibility of the Passover message and tradition to the next generation.

What is your favorite part of the Passover Seder?

Most people might say “the food.”  For me, I’d have to say that I enjoy the thoughtful discussions our family has.  Okay, that, and the matzo ball soup.

What is the best fourth question to end this interview with?

How about, “what inspired this story?”

I grew up in a small but active Jewish community in New Orleans, and our family Passover Seders were large, boisterous events. They were full of the laughter of children—my four brothers, sister, and two cousins. The grown-ups sometimes got annoyed, feeling that there was a bit too much goofing around and not quite enough paying attention.

Not much changed as we grew up. Then my wise father had an idea: he put the responsibility for running the Seder on us, then-grown, kids. He said we could lead the Seder anyway we wished, as long as we fulfilled all the required parts of the service. This included the reciting of The Four Questions by the youngest child (by now, we had little kids of our own), and the telling of the Passover story.

So my brother and I wrote funny skits: A ‘talk show” interview with Moses. The Passover News. A restaurant review of McManna’s Desert Café. The Egyptian weather report (100% chance of locusts and frogs; the Nile’s inexplicable “red tide”…). We still got to have fun, but now the older generation laughed along with us.

Laughter remains an important part of our family Seders—and so does asking questions. Questioning is highly encouraged in Judaism. It facilitates learning, understanding, and discovery. And so, in keeping with our creative Seders, I wrote a story about a child determined to come up with the BEST questions ever.

Ha! They are the BEST. So funny!

My personal brisket with Jewish picture books is that there are not enough funny ones! This one hits the spot! Publisher’s Weekly agrees, saying “Passover is a celebration of freedom, and that includes the liberty to take a small detour into shared silliness.”

Actually, many Jewish holidays celebrate religious freedom. As my family says, “They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat!”

You can get THE BEST FOUR QUESTIONS by Rachelle Burk and Melanie Florian anywhere books are sold. 

Happy Passover!

Every year at Pesach time,
We eat the matzah, we drink the wine.
We ask four questions one by one,
But before the seder’s done…

The moment Afikomen Mambo arrived, my kids fought over it. One look at the bright, happy cover and they knew there was a fun beat inside.

While Christian children have the Easter egg hunt, at Passover our children search for the afikomen, a piece of matzah traditionally broken in half at the beginning of the seder and then hidden for the children to find when the seder is over. The child who finds the afikomen is awarded a prize, and what could be a better prize than Afikomen Mambo?

Now you can hide it in a table,
Hide it in a box,
Underneath the stairway,
Or inside the kitchen clock.
You can put it in your pocket,
Put it under the TV,
But you can’t hide the afikomen from me…

The book by Rabbi Joe Black sports a catchy rhyme and even catchier CD with the mambo song–you can play the music for the kids while they peek under pillows and behind bookcases. The whimsical watercolor illustrations by Linda Prater are bright and cheerful (except for when the characters make faces at the bitter herbs!).

I’m gonna find it, I’m gonna find it,
I’m gonna find it, I’m gonna find,
Gonna find the afikomen!

This is a must-have book for Jewish families with young children. You can begin a Passover tradition with the reading of the book and singing of the Afikomen Mambo song. Kudos to Kar-Ben Publishing for producing delightfully fun books for Jewish holidays.

Another playful book for Passover is The Matzah Man by Naomi Howland.

Hot from the oven I jumped and ran,
So clever and quick, I’m the Matzah Man!

You guessed it–it’s a take-off on the Gingerbread Man with a whole new rhyme scheme and cast of characters. There’s Grandma Tillie and her tender brisket, Auntie Bertha shopping in high heels, Grandpa Solly chopping onions, Miss Axelrod stirring her soup, and you’ll never guess who swaps roles with the tricky fox, finally outsmarting the Matzah Man.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to mambo while I make matzah ball soup.

Happy Passover!

7ate9

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:


illus by Melissa Crowton
Tundra/PRH Canada
June 4, 2019


illus by Ross MacDonald
Disney*Hyperion
October 15, 2019

THREE WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN
illus by Vivienne To
HarperCollins
Spring 2020

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
August 2020

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