Jumping frogs, stone soup and other surprises for kids

Frolicking frogs and magical matzah balls are featured in this year’s crop of excellent Passover books for children.

The story that is retold at the Passover seder begins 3,000 years ago in the biblical days of Jacob as he settles in Egypt. In David A. Adler’s “The Story of Passover,” young readers learn how the Israelites become slaves, and follow Moses as he is raised by Pharaoh’s daughter in the palace and later leads the Israelites out of Egypt.

Jill Weber’s detailed illustrations evoke the color palette and landscape of ancient Egypt; she gently conveys the suffering of the Egyptians through the plagues and the triumph of the Israelites as they cross the Red Sea into freedom.

On the lighter side is “Frogs in the Bed,” a book that also includes a comic-book story and activities for before or during the seder. Author Ann D. Koffsky’s colorful, cartoon-like illustrations animate the song by Shirley Cohen Steinberg on which the book is based.

Cute frogs turn up everywhere Pharaoh goes. They even pop up out of chandeliers and juggle fruit. The book includes the Four Questions, mazes and other Passover-related distractions.

In Sandy Lanton’s “The Littlest Levine,” Hannah is not happy about being the littlest (and youngest) member of her family. Her two older siblings do all the things she isn’t allowed to do yet.

Her grandfather, who lives with the family, keeps reassuring her, “Your holiday is coming, my littlest Levine.” As Passover nears, he makes her feel special, teaching her the Four Questions. When it’s time for the seder, Hannah is ready to enjoy the spotlight.

Max, on the other hand, is very ready for Passover. The endearing young character in Michelle Edwards’ “Max Makes a Cake” knows the Four Questions and can tell his baby sister why Passover is different from all other nights. He’s also eager to bake his artist mom a Passover birthday cake. But with the baby in the house, his dad gets a bit distracted and can’t help.

Losing patience and with little time to spare, the ingenious Max takes matters into his own hands and creates a memorable cake all by himself. The recipe for a Hurry, Hurry, Hurry Cake is included.

In Jewish folk tradition, Chelm is known as a make-believe town filled with naïve fools who, despite themselves, manage to impart wisdom with a huge dose of humor. In the delightful “Stone Soup with Matzoh Balls,” author Linda Glaser gives a Chelm spin to a tale told in many cultures around the world.

On the eve of Passover, a poor ragged stranger arrives in the village and asks if anyone will invite him in to share the holiday. He quotes from the haggadah, “All who are hungry come and eat,” and sparks everyone’s interest by telling them he can make a pot of matzah ball soup from only a stone. With clever prodding, he gets the villagers to create a huge pot of delicious soup, with light and fluffy matzah balls. Maryam Tabatabaei’s expressive illustrations are a perfect match for the humorous story, evoking the Old World village with a playful tone.

Readers of all ages will be fascinated as they follow Rabbi Jamie Korngold and a large group of people on a hike through the sands and magnificent stone arches that fill Israel’s Moab desert landscape. “Seder in the Desert” follows Korngold, a Reform rabbi and founder of the Boulder, Colo.-based Adventure Rabbi program, on one of her treks.

Korngold’s book is a colorful photo essay that offers something new and unexpected for Passover. “Why is this seder different from all others?” the book asks on its opening page. “Because this year we are celebrating Passover in the desert.”

The adventure invites readers to imagine what it might have been like for ancient Israelites to wander the desert in the Exodus story.

 

“The Story of Passover” by David A. Adler (32 pages, Holiday House, $15.95); ages 4-8

“Frogs in the Bed: My Passover Seder Activity Book” by Ann D. Koffsky (32 pages, Behrman House, $7.95); ages 4-7

“The Littlest Levine” by Sandy Lanton (24 pages, Kar-Ben, $7.95); ages 3-8

“Max Makes a Cake” by Michelle Edwards (32 pages, Random House, $17.99); ages 3-7

“Stone Soup with Matzoh Balls” by Linda Glaser (32 pages, Albert Whitman, $16.99); ages 4-7

“Seder in the Desert” by Rabbi Jamie Korngold (32 pages, Kar-Ben, $7.95); ages 3-8