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Private Joel and the Sewell Mountain Seder [Kindle Edition]

Bryna J. Fireside , Shawn Costello
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Print List Price: $6.95
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Book Description

With permission from their commander and matzah brought in on a train from Cincinnati, Jewish members of a Civil War regiment improvise a seder to remember. The participation of three former slaves, now members of their company, lends a special meaning to this celebration of freedom.

This is a fixed-format ebook, which preserves the design and layout of the original print book.

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 2–5—This Civil War story about Private J.A. Joel and 20 other Jewish soldiers in the 23rd Ohio Regiment is based on an article written by Joel and published in the Jewish Messenger in 1866. The third-person narration is presented in eight short, easy-to-read chapters. Bored and homesick while guarding a railroad line in West Virginia, the soldiers secure their commander's permission to commemorate Passover. They pay a sutler (traveling merchant) to ship matzah to them and obtain ingredients for the traditional meal. They find an egg for the Seder plate and use carrottops in place of parsley, a brick for charoset, a weed for bitter herbs, and hard cider for wine. Seated around a white-clothed table, they sing the Four Questions, tell the Passover story, and join together in song. Fireside's concluding note discusses her decision "to include some former slaves to share in this celebration." Matzah ball soup is placed on the menu, providing a humorous subplot and a connection to contemporary readers. Costello's vibrant paintings blend realistic and abstract styles, filling the spreads with color. Readers will need some background on the Civil War and Passover to navigate this story, making this book most useful in collections that support Jewish studies.—Laura Scott, Farmington Community Library, MI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Camped in West Virginia’s Sewell Mountains in the spring of 1862, Union Army Private J. A. Joel is homesick and bored. With permission from his commander, he organizes a Passover seder for the 21 Jewish soldiers serving in Ohio’s 23rd Regiment. Noting that Passover’s celebration of freedom aligns well with the struggle to end slavery, Joel also includes three freed African American members of the regiment in the celebration. Basing her book on a true story, Fireside details the preparations and inevitable substitutions the war necessitated: cider replaces wine; carrot tops stand in for parsley; and a brick symbolizes charoset. Costello’s impressionistic artwork seems well suited to this nostalgic story. Although respectful in tone, the illustrations also pick up on occasional humor, as when hungry soldiers swallow too much bitter herb and chase it down with very potent cider. A good choice for the holiday shelf or Judaica collections. Grades 2-4. --Kay Weisman

Product Details

  • File Size: 19146 KB
  • Print Length: 34 pages
  • Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing (March 4, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,269,809 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SFC 5 star review March 18, 2008
Based on a true story, this historical fiction is set in the year 1862, during the Civil War. Private J. A. Joel was part of a Jewish company of Union soldiers, camped out in West Virginia. With only two weeks away before Passover, Private Joel and his friends were homesick for family, and wanted to have their own Seder, or traditional Jewish Passover meal. The private and some of his fellow Jewish soldiers write a letter to their commander, William S. Rosencrans, asking for permission for a short leave so that they could prepare for and celebrate their traditional Seder. They are given permission, and are joined by several African American former slaves that now fight for the Union. With the help of a kindly Jewish sutler, supplies were procured and sent back to the men for their meal. Improvisation was the name of the game as the soldiers substituted ingredients that were on hand near their encampment for the traditional meal. Were these Jewish soldiers successful in holding their Passover Seder? Did it go off without any problems? Did Commander Rosencrans really have his spoon bend almost in half from his battle with a matzah ball? Find out by reading this excellent book!

Author Bryna Fireside has done an excellent job of weaving a true story into a page-turning chapter book. I found this fascinating as a story and educational regarding the Jewish Passover celebration. The excellent illustrations by Shawn Costello make you feel as if you knew each soldier personally since their facial expressions throughout are so realistic and become truly humorous when accompanied by Bryna's funny dialog of the soldiers after they've had a few too many sips of cider. This is a wonderful story about the loneliness of the soldiers as they fought so far from home and missed family, friends, and a chance to celebrate their faith. I found this book to be very touching, realistic, and educational. This book is a keeper!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life Affirming February 13, 2008
This book, written for young readers, is full of life and hope and deep humanity. I loved it, not only for its interesting story of life as a Civil War soldier, but for its warmth and reminder that even under adversity, it is possible to live as a full human being. The text and illustrations sing together, making the characters come alive. It's one of Fireside's best.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great reading for young boys April 23, 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book for my almost 8 year old grandson for Passover and it turned out to be a wonderful history lesson. He loved reading the book to me and he was fascinated by the Civil War story. It brought that era to life for him
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