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Wonders and Miracles: A Passover Companion Hardcover – February 1, 2004
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Between the covers of this elegant volume dwells a thorough and thoroughly engrossing compilation of stories, songs, recipes, artwork, prayers, and commentary on the beloved Jewish holiday, Passover. Eric A. Kimmel, acclaimed author of more than 60 titles for children, including the Caldecott Honor Book Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, outdoes himself in this mother of all Passover books, going well beyond the typical retelling of the Passover story. Using the seder, the ceremonial Passover meal, as a starting point, Kimmel walks readers through every step of the holiday, using ancient and modern stories and illustrations to explain the legends and history behind the rituals. He includes contributions from writers such as Nina Jaffe, Debbie Friedman, and Rabbi David Schaps (a.k.a. Grandma Tirzah), and stunning artwork that spans 3,000 years and four continents, for a truly beautiful, comprehensive treasury that will be brought to the Seder table along with the Haggadah for years to come. (All ages) --Emilie Coulter
From School Library Journal
Grade 3-7--Kimmel gloriously celebrates the Passover Seder, an evening of observances, history, remembrances, and family sharing. Using the Haggadah, or "the telling," as a guide, he weaves together storytelling, narrative, recipes, songs, and prayers. Contributors include Nina Jaffe, Debbie Friedman, and Sadie Rose Weilerstein. Kimmel provides insightful explanations about why the Seder is held and why questions are asked and why certain foods are eaten or not eaten, and he embraces both traditional and modern practices. The marvelous selection of art--paintings, photographs, artifacts, and illustrations from historical Haggadahs--illuminates each step in the service. Hebrew prayers are transliterated and translated and recipes include both Ashkenazic and Sephardic favorites. Both the presentation of information and the overall design attest to the careful and loving attention given to every detail. This inviting, handsome, and informative compendium should find a place of honor in every library.--Susan Pine, New York Public Library
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Top Customer Reviews
The information included is good too, as it explains each step very slowly, in little bites, until you're all the way through the seder. And it explains the reasoning behind each step. I liked, for example, the explanation of the ten plagues and how they each corresponded to hardships the Egyptians inflicted upon the Hebrews. Elsewhere I had learned that the plagues corresponded to judgment on particular Egyptian god/goddesses, so this little revelation was new and helpful for me and my kids.
I also liked how it included an Elijah story to help explain why the children open the door for Elijah on Pesach. i had been looking for this in other Passover resources with no luck.
I also appreciated the emphasis on pursuing justice on behalf of the disadvantaged in the world.
I was not so happy with the brief editorial about global warming that was made, but that's just me. I don't think we're bringing "plagues" upon ourselves in the same way that God brought plagues on the Egyptians, as Kimmel says. Sowing and reaping is important for children to understand, I think the analogy is a bad one.
"Seder" means "order" in Hebrew and, as anyone who has ever participated in one knows, the order of the prayers, songs and stories recited there are prescribed in the book called the "Haggadah," which means, "The Telling." There are dozens of different styles of Haggadahs, but all of them follow the same order. However, not all Haggadahs (especially ones used by families with small children) come with clear explanations and commentaries on the various rituals associated with the holiday. Kimmel understands this perennial situation and it is here where this book truly shines.
Kimmel spent seven years compiling this book. He has illuminated each aspect of the ritual Seder with a poem here, an explanation there, and glowing throughout the text, gorgeous paintings or illuminated manuscript reproductions that have been chosen with perfection. Short stories or songs by noted authors and musicians are included, and will surely be a welcome addition to any Seder where squirmy children are in attendance.
The book's opening entices the reader with Kimmel's original prose poem entitled, "Night Journey".
Get ready. We are going on a journey. It will last only one night, but it will take us a long, long way.
We will travel from slavery to freedom.
From sorrow to joy.
From a country not our own to the land given to God to our ancestors.
For this is the night of Passover, the night when our ancestors left Egypt, the House of Slavery.
They left on foot in haste, carrying their belongings on their backs, driving their flocks and herds before them.
We are going with them. Our journey is called the Seder. Our guide is a special book called the Haggadah. It tells the Passover story.
Get ready. We are leaving soon.
Our journey is about to begin.
Child or adult, who can resist that opening? This is a book destined to become a classic of Jewish children's literature.
This "Passover companion" follows the order of the seder but inserts explanations, background information, interpretations, and illustrative stories that flesh out the meaning of each traditional step. The book provides a very complete package, and the author explains that it should be read before the holiday and used as a resource during the seder, as it is too long to be used as a haggadah.
The reader is immediately struck by the sumptuousness of the illustrations, which are reproduced in vibrant color from many sources. We see details from medieval haggadot, photographs of Judaic ritual objects, paintings, and even a few modern book illustrations. Captions tell us the source of each illustration and explain the significance of the objects or actions depicted. The book's design includes thick paper, plenty of white space, and decorative elements in gold.
Most spreads include an illustration, but there are a few that are somewhat text-heavy. Some of the longer sections, especially those that retell the stories of Joseph and Moses, are a bit dry. The text is clearly written but frequently employs sophisticated vocabulary; the book is aimed at families rather than at child-readers. Older children and teens (and adults) will come away from this book with a deeper understanding of Passover and its rituals.