As an extended contemporary family sits around a large dining table celebrating a Passover seder, three children and a dog steal the afikomen (broken piece of matzoh) from the seder leader, sneak underneath the floor length tablecloth, and emerge from a tent into Ancient Egypt. There they observe breadmaking; watch as a heartbroken mother and daughter place Moses into a reed basket along the Nile River; view plagues of frogs; and facilitate the Pharaoh’s daughter rescuing Moses from the bulrushes to raise as her own child. Later, the children re-enter the tent (still holding the bag with the afikomen) and emerge tired, to find their own seder concluding. A final spread depicts the children’s surprised parents opening the afikomen bag after everyone has gone home to find it filled with sand.
This wordless Passover time travel adventure is beautifully illustrated in ink and watercolor. Using a palette of earth tones and blues, and a multi-panel format that allows several scenes per spread, Eshet vividly depicts both ancient and contemporary settings and practices. Vibrant facial expressions, the use of patterning for clothing and scene details, and the many features of the Passover seder depicted on the table, itself, add to the story’s interest and authenticity. As well, invented scenes (a crocodile approaching Moses’s floating basket open-mouthed) add drama to the telling. An appended author’s note fills in the details of the Passover story for those unfamiliar with it and explains differing afikomen practices among Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews. There are many children’s Passover stories to choose from, but Afikomen should be a number one pick.
Kay Weisman is a former youth services librarian at West Vancouver Memorial Library and the author of If You Want to Visit a Sea Garden.