Posts Tagged ‘Seder’

Look around, just look around! Hamaavir sheinah meieinai, ut’numah meiafapai/ Who removes sleep from the eyes, slumber from the eyelids

Books used in this review are from my personal library or were provided by my local public library. I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my website and purchase it from Amazon, I may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You will incur no additional cost, however. I appreciate your support.

. _____________________________________________________________________ .

 We are on the ninth blessing of the Nisim B’Chol Yom/the blessings for daily miracles recited during morning prayers:

“Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe,

Who removes sleep from the eyes, slumber from the eyelids.”

Passover begins in one week, on the evening of Monday, April 14 with the first Seder. This blessing is such an interesting way to begin the Passover season. Because I am always a bit stressed out as I prepare my home for the Seder we host every year, I tend to get lost in all the details of writing our Haggadah, planning the menu, figuring out how the plagues are going to be presented, and of course, who we are inviting and who is coming. I am reading tons of material to make this year’s Seder different from last year’s. I am blinded by the amount of effort that goes into all of this.

Reading this blessing reminds me that I must not go through this with my eyes closed! In fact, I must remember this Bible story:

“Now Moses, tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, drove the flock into the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. An angel of Adonai appeared to him in a blaze of fire out of a bush. He gazed, and there was a bush all aflame, yet the bush was not consumed. Moses said, “I must turn aside to look at this marvelous sight; why doesn’t the bush burn up? When Adonai saw that he had turned aside, God called to him out of the bush: “Moses! Moses!” He answered, “Here I am.” And God said, “Do not come closer. Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground…” (Exodus 3:1-5)  

What made Moses notice the bush in the first place? Then, once noticed, look deeper to see that the bush was burning, yet not consumed? Moses’ eyes were clearly wide open! How many things might we be missing in a day as we drive to work, rush through our daily tasks, and hurry to get home? It is spring (finally!) here on the east coast – the trees are blooming, the birds are singing. Let’s thank God for eyes that can see and stop and take some time to notice the beautiful world around us.

Happy Reading and Happy Passover!

Kathy B.


SeeWhaleIf You Want to See a Whale by Julie Folgliano. Illustrated by Erin E. Stead. ©2013. Roaring Brook Press. Ages 3-8.  In this beautiful book, children will learn about all the things they should not see while searching for a whale. Oh, but during that search, there is so much to look at while you wait…and wait…and wait…



The King of Little Things by Bill Lepp. Illustrated by David T. Wenzel. ©2013. Peachtree Publishers. Ages 4-8.  Have you ever heard about “the little things”?  How important they are? How you need to pay attention to them? In this story, a very big king thought he could overlook the little things and learned a very big lesson.


manviolinThe Man with the Violin by Kathy Stinson. Illustrated by Dušan Petričić. ©2013. Annick Press, Ltd. Ages 4-8. Dylan heard the music playing in the train station, and he was transformed. He wanted to stop and listen, but his mother was in a hurry. They rushed to meet their train, they rushed to do their chores, they rushed all through their day, as the music continued to play in Dylan’s head.  When Dylan heard the music again, on the radio, he grabbed his mother from the kitchen and made her listen—to Joshua Bell playing beautiful music on his Stradivarius violin. Based on a true story.



The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. Illustrated by Robert Lawson. ©1936. Grosset & Dunlap. Ages 4-10. The classic story about a friendly bull who does not want to fight anyone, he just wants to sit—quietly and peacefully—under his favorite tree and smell the flowers all day long.


ZoomZoom Written and illustrated by Istvan Banyai. ©1998. Puffin. Ages 4-9. Look at the first picture, and what do you see? A rooster on a farm, so this is a book about a farm! Better keep zooming…As with all things in life, how you see something is all about perspective.



©2014 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and All rights reserved.

Be Strong and of Good Courage/Ometz Lev

We are entering the Jewish month of Nissan, the month during which Jews and their families all over the world celebrate the holiday of Passover.  At a special meal, the Seder,  using a special book, the Haggadah, we retell the story of the Israelites’ miraculous escape from slavery to the Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh and recount their wandering in the desert as a free people. During the Seder, we are reminded that we must see ourselves as if we, each of us, personally went out of Egypt. As if we, each of us, personally were a slave and now we are free. As if we, each of us, personally, had been redeemed by the Holy One.

What I think about each Passover – OK,  after the Seder invitations are out, the plague bags are decided upon and the menu is finalized…What I think about as I am putting together our Haggadah, is the amount of courage it must have required for the Ancient Israelites to pack up their families, what few possessions they had and to leave it all behind, for something they could not see or touch-freedom. And though we read several times in the Torah, that the people complained and  may have wanted to go back, they never did. Freedom once tried cannot easily be returned.

This month’s book list honors the courage shown by our ancestors as they travelled out of their slavery and into freedom by providing a taste of that courage through the reading experience.

Younger Readers

Sheila Rae, the Brave. Written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow Books, © 1987. Everyone knows that Sheila Rae is very, very brave. She giggles when the principal walks by,  steps on sidewalk cracks, and rides her bike with no hands.  One day, however, after deciding to take a different path home from school, she loses her way.  Suddenly, she is not as brave as she thinks. Fortunately, she receives help from a very special source. Ages 4-8.

The Empty Pot. Written and illustrated by Demi. Henry Holt and Company, © 1990. The Emperor of China is growing old and must chose a successor.  He decides to give all the children in China a seed from his garden and tells them to grow it. Ping loves to grow plants, but no matter what he does, his seed does not grow. When all the other children bring pots full of beautiful flowers to share with the Emperor, will Ping have the courage to share his empty pot? Ages 4-8.

Nachshon Who Was Afraid to Swim. By Deborah Bodin Cohen. Illustrated by Jago. Kar-Ben Publishing, © 2009. Nachshon is a slave to the Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh. He is very brave, avoiding the Pharaoh’s taskmasters and spying for his people, until he is invited to swim in the water. Then he steps back.  Nachshon is frightened by the water. When the slaves are freed from Pharaoh’s slavery and they find themselves at the Red Sea, however, someone must be the first to step in or the waters will not open. Who will have the courage to enter the sea first? Ages 5-9.

Mirette on the High Wire Written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, © 1992. Winner of the Caldecott Medal. Mirette’s mother runs a boarding house for performers visiting Paris. One day, Mirette meets a very talented man who is practicing walking the tightrope in her backyard. He dismisses her requests to learn this skill. Nevertheless, she begins to teach herself. Seeing that she has talent, and determination, he begins her training. Mirette learns however, that he will not take her on the road with him, because he is very afraid after suffering an accident. Can she help him find the courage to return to show business? Ages 5-10.

Call It Courage. Written and illustrated by Armstrong Sperry. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, © 1940. Winner of the Newbery Award. Mafutu is the son of the great chief of a Polynesian clan that worships the sea and courage. However, he is afraid of the water because when he was a young child the sea took his mother’s life and almost his own. In this classic story, Mafutu becomes a legend when he decides to overcome his fear and take on the challenges of the sea. Ages 8-12.

Older Readers

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword. Written and illustrated by Barry Deutsch. Amulet Books, © 2011. Winner of the Sydney Taylor Award for Older Readers. Mirka, an 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl, wants to fight dragons. In order to do that,  she must find a sword. No easy task in the Ultra-Orthodox community where she lives. However with the help of her wise stepmother, a talking pig, a wicked witch and an evil ogre, Mirka achieves her dream. Ages 10-14.

The Breadwinner. By Deborah Ellis. Groundwood Books, © 2000. Parvana and her family are living in a one room apartment in a bombed-out neighborhood in Kabul, Afghanistan. Her father has been arrested for having a college education and is in prison. The only way for her mother, three siblings and herself to survive is for her to dress as a boy and earn a living on the streets. However, the consequence if she is caught…she does not want to think about, she must simply find the courage to do what must be done to survive.  Ages 11-14.

The Storyteller’s Beads. By Jane Kurtz. Harcourt Brace & Company, © 1998. Due to war, famine and drought, Sahay, a Christian orphan girl, must leave Ethiopia immediately. For religious reasons, Rahel, a blind, Jewish Ethiopian girl is also leaving the country. When these two girls’ paths cross, they must overcome deep animosities toward each other in order that they may both achieve their dreams: Freedom in another country. Ages 11-14.

Homeless Bird. By Gloria Whelan. HarperCollins Publishers, © 2000. A National Book Award Winner. Koly, a 13-year-old Indian girl,  is forced to marry a sickly boy. This is her fate. When he dies, she  becomes part of an Indian widows’ community. When her talent for embroidery is discovered by the community’s benefactor and a new young man begins to take interest in her, will she have the courage to change the path tradition and fate have handed her? Ages 13-16.

The Boy Who Dared: A Novel Based on the True Story of a Hitler Youth. By Susan Campbell Bartoletti.  Scholastic Press, © 2008. Not every German believed the propaganda that was fed to them during World War II. Some individuals did what they could to deliver a different message to the people. This is the story of one such individual who gave up his life for the truth. Ages 14-18.

* * * * * * * *

These titles provide a broad understanding of the value of Ometz Lev/Courage. As you sit at your Seder, whether at home or elsewhere,  listen carefully as the Haggadah is read. If you hear a story, a song or a prayer that sounds like it is describing a brave, daring or courageous moment, shout out, “Ometz Lev. Courage!”  Of course, others at the Seder may stare at you. That’s OK. You can share what you learned and the book you read later, during dinner.  If you are looking for additional information about Passover including a free downloadable Haggadah, visit

Wishing you a Passover season filled with fabulous food, fun and frogs,

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2011 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were from my personal collection and from my local public library.
I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my web site and purchase it from Amazon,

I may receive a very small commission on your purchase.

You will incur no additional cost, however.

I appreciate your support.

Why is this night different?

Passover is a mere seven days away. As I was thinking about what to write about, I discovered that both Jennifer Shultz at the kiddosphere and Tricia at Miss Rumphius Effect have both blogged about Passover books and have done a fine job. I encourage you to visit their sites for more information.

I do, however, want to tell you about the newest Passover book I received.

The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah by Leslie Kimmelman. Illustrated by Paul Meisel. © 2010, Holiday House. Ages 4-8. A charming retelling of the classic Little Red Hen story. In this version, Ms. Hen needs to make her matzah for the Seder. She seeks help from her barnyard friends for the planting, harvesting, milling and making of the matzah. Of course, no one has the energy or enthusiasm to assist. However, when it is time for the Seder, everyone needs a place at the table. Can Ms. Hen refuse? Of course not! The illustrations are terrific, bright, colorful and bold, and the use of Yiddish is fun and appropriate throughout this delightful story.

I am happy to be able to remind you that you can now go to my catalog for an annotated list of Passover titles that are currently available. There are quite a number and there is still time to get them before the Holiday.

What more to tell you about, then? How about the ever-evolving process of creating my family’s Haggadah every year, including what I use for inspiration – which is of course, Passover themed books and other Haggadot.

I will start by saying as I did in an earlier blog, that I put all of my “Christmas” energy into Passover. When my children (now 22 and 25 years old) were small, we used the Kar-Ben My Very Own Haggadah, which is still in print and available – only now with a color cover. As I began to take on more Passover responsibilities – more guests, more food preparation, etc. – I needed more information.  I obtained a copy of the Art of Jewish Living Series: Passover, now titled Passover, 2nd edition: The Family Guide to Spiritual Celebration by Dr. Ron Wolfson with Joel Lurie Grishaver. Dr. Wolfson’s view of the Passover Seder as a “drama in four acts,” each act with four scenes and a curtain, was extremely helpful in enabling me to see what was happening during the various Seders I attended and what needed to happen during our Seder.

I also learned from Dr. Wolfson that there were 14 steps to cover during the Seder. Another revelation!  Four Acts – Four Scenes – 14 Steps – This truly was Order! These Seders were not different at all! They were ALL EXACTLY THE SAME just the words were different.  This information has been the foundation on which I have built my family Haggadot over the years. I return to The Art of Jewish Living: Passover every year to make sure I am “sticking to the plan.

Of course, in children’s Haggadot, some “Scenes” may be shortened. Do 2-6 year olds really need to hear about the B’nei B’rak Rabbis?  Do we need to study Torah text with children or can we find more creative, perhaps more dramatic, ways to relate the story of our people’s deliverance from slavery. While wildly popular now, we began tossing plagues around during our Seders in 1988 when my son was 4 years old. I have often wondered if Oriental Trading Company understands the spike in its frog, farm animal and wild beast toy sales during the March-April period.

Over the years, I have collected Haggadot in order to glean from them new ideas to add to our family’s Haggadah. Every year, I would focus on adding or enriching some Act, Scene or Step. Then, a few years ago, I found this incredible website, It contains everything I had been looking for to put together my own Haggadah – Hebrew, transliterations, English translations, plus more. Readings, poems, essays, recipes and the most amazing collection of songs I have ever seen.

We now cover all 14 Steps and all Four Acts of the Passover Seder. I will not guarantee that every Scene is present and accounted for. Our Passover Seder table always includes a wide range of ages and faiths. (I think they come for the frogs.) Whatever their reason, we are happy they join us. I want to make sure their experience is warm and welcoming, they feel free to ask questions and are engaged with what is happening.

Now, in addition to our Haggadah, thanks to that fabulous website, we also have a Passover songbook containing songs we have grown to love singing over the years and many that parody popular tunes with Passover related verses. Once we finish our Seder, we often sing into the night.  After all, we have been sure to drink those four cups of wine, so why not sing our favorite tunes. It is far better than karaoke.

At the beginning of our Haggadah, we state (adapted I am sure from somewhere):

“The purpose of this evening is to arouse the attention and curiosity of all who sit at our table… We want them to ask us “Ma Nishtanah? What is going on here? What in the world are you doing? And why?”

If at the end of the evening, we have accomplished that, what more could we ask? Isn’t that what a Seder is all about?

I wish you all a happy and wondrous Passover.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were provided by the publishers cited or are from my personal collection.
I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my web site and purchase it from Amazon,

I may receive a very small commission on your purchase.

You will incur no additional cost, however.

I appreciate your support.

Courage/Ometz Lev – The Strength of Heart to Show the Way

Right after Purim is over, I begin to think about Passover. It is an “event” in our home. I often tell people that when I converted to Judaism, I took all my “Christmas energy” and threw it into Passover. We write our own haggadah, are visited by some rather creative plagues and make sure our guests have a really good time.

While I read the Exodus story in preparation for the holiday, what always pops out is the courage of many of the Biblical characters. Of course, Moses, with his speech impediment (Ex. 4:10), repeatedly facing down Pharoah saying “let my people go!” (Ex. 5:1) is hard to miss. But it is the lesser known heroes that stand out in my mind, starting with the midwives who defied Pharoah by allowing the Hebrew women to give birth to their babies rather than killing them (Ex. 1:17). Then, Pharoah’s daughter who rescued Moses from the Nile to raise him as her own son (Ex. 2:6). Finally, Nachshon, the son of Amminadab, who was the first to put his foot into the waters of the Reed Sea so that those waters would part and the Israelites could walk across and be free (Ex. 14:22). When I read about these individuals, and most of what we know about them comes from midrash, I think to myself, “How did they learn to be so courageous? Where did they get their strength of heart? What kind of stories did their parents tell them?”

This month’s books all demonstrate the value of Courage/Ometz Lev. They would be the stories I would (and did) read to my children in the hope of instilling in them the ability to find their courage at the right moment.

Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim: A Passover Story. By Deborah Bodin Cohen. Illustrations by Jago. © 2009, Kar-Ben Publishing. Ages 4-8. A 2009 AJL Sydney Taylor Honor Book. Nachshon, a young Israelite slave, was very brave. As a child, he smuggled water into the quarries and spied on Pharaoh and his guards. He was afraid of one thing, however – swimming. Even as he grew up and worked with the other slaves, he was still afraid to swim. Then he meets Moses who tells him, “Real freedom means facing your fears and overcoming them.” When Pharaoh relents and frees the Israelites, they find themselves trapped at the shores of the Sea of Reeds. Nachshon knows what he must do. Does he have the courage? Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim, would be perfect at your Passover Seder. (BTW, if you are a PJ Library subscriber you may be receiving this book this month.)

Brave Bear. Written and illustrated by Kathy Mallat. © 1999, Walker and Company. Ages 3-7. A little bird falls from a tree. Little Bear wants to help, but to do so means he has to climb up the very tall tree, out on a very long branch to the little bird’s nest. He thinks he can. With some help, he does. Using very simple text, a minimal use of words, but extraordinary and beautiful illustrations, Ms. Mallat conveys Little Bear’s determination, fear, courage and ultimate triumph. One of my all-time favorite books.

Mirette on the High Wire.  Written and Illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully. © 1992, G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Winner of the 1993 Caldecott Medal. In late 19th century Paris, the widow Gateau’s boarding house is where actors traveling in from all over the world find the best accommodations. Mirette, Madame Gateau’s daughter, worked at her mother’s side to ensure that all their guests were happy and content. When Mr. Bellini, a retired tight-rope walker visits, Mirette is intrigued. Watching him walk across a rope in the courtyard every day, she begs him to teach her how it’s done. When he refuses, Mirette teaches herself. Impressed, Mr. Bellini takes her on as a student. Soon the entire boarding house learns that their guest is “The Great Bellini,” whose tightrope feats are world famous. Unfortunately, he has become afraid and refuses to continue his work. Realizing that he must face his fear or disappoint Mirette, he arranges another performance. However, when the time comes to step out on the wire, he freezes. It is up to Mirette to teach her teacher the meaning of courage. Can she do it? This story will leave you with goosebumps. The illustrations evoke Toulouse-Lautrec’s art with their pastel colored backgrounds and their brightly colored highlights.

Rainbow Fish to the Rescue. Written and illustrated by Marcus Pfister. ©1995, North-South Books. In this sequel to The Rainbow Fish, all Rainbow Fish’s scales have been shared with his friends. A new fish wanting to join the game of “flash-tag,” learns that a flashing scale is required. Since there are no more flashing scales to be found, the other fish ignore him. When a shark attacks the group of fish, they run for cover. Unfortunately, the new fish is left alone. Rainbow Fish bravely goes out in order to save the new fish. His friends follow him to distract the shark while Rainbow Fish brings their new friend into the safety of the cave. As always with the Rainbow Fish books, the holographic scales on the fish will be very attractive to young readers, while the simple story and its message will be very evident.

Sheila Rae, the Brave. Written and illustrated by Kevin Henks. ©1987, Greenwillow Books. Sheila Rae is very brave. Braver than anyone. She steps on sidewalk cracks, giggles when the principal walks by and growls at stray dogs as she sings, “I am brave…I am fearless.” Sheila Rae is very brave. Until she decides to take a different route home from school. And things do not look the same, noises sound scary and she has creepy thoughts. Thank goodness her sister, Louise, is following her. In his inimitable style, Kevin Henkes brings us another loveable character and her sister to brighten our day, make us smile and teach us a thing or two about courage.

Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson.  By Sharon Robinson. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. ©2009, Scholastic Press. Most people know that Jackie Robinson was the African American baseball player who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. That achievement took enormous courage and was extremely public. This book, however, is about a feat of courage that took place in the privacy of his own home, in front of his children. It took place on a very cold winter’s day, when his children asked him to test the ice on their pond to see if it was safe for skating. He put on his boots and slowly walked out on the ice, tapping gently to make sure it would not crack. He declared it safe and the children rushed out on their skates to thank him. It wasn’t until many years later that they realized how courageous their father was, because Jackie Robinson could not swim. Beautiful, detailed illustrations bring this story to life.

I hope that you will find these books inspirational and meaningful as you plan your Passover experiences. Perhaps you will want to share them with your Seder guests or your hosting family.

On Monday evening, March 29, Jews all over the world, with family and friends, will be sitting down to retell the Passover story and the birth of the Jewish people. Whether you believe that every word you read in the Haggadah is true or that what you are reading are archetypal legends of the Jewish people, the fact remains that Passover is the most celebrated Jewish holiday in the Hebrew calendar. It took a lot of people (real or imagined,) with a lot of courage, to create a way to bring us together every year to remember, teach and celebrate these events.

I wish you a Passover season that is filled with blessings,

Happy reading!

Kathy B.

©2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were from my personal collection, my local library or provided by the publishers cited.
I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my web site and purchase it from Amazon,

I may receive a very small commission on your purchase.

You will incur no additional cost, however.

I appreciate your support.

Book Review | The Yankee at the Seder
by Elka Weber

Score: 5

Illustrated by Adam Gustavson. © 2009, Tricycle Press. A 2009 Sydney Taylor Honor Book. This story gave me chills. It is revealing, powerful, tense and emotional. Set in Virginia right after the Civil War has been lost by the South, a family of Southern Jews is preparing for Passover, when a young Yankee officer shows [...]

Read the rest of this review »