________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 12. . . .November 20, 2015


Passover: Festival of Freedom. (Orca Origins).

Monique Polak.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2016.
72 pp., hardcover, pdf & epub, $24.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0990-1 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0991-8 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0992-5 (epub).

Subject Heading:
Passover-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Reesa Cohen.

**1/2 /4

Reviewed from F&Gs.



Every spring, Jewish families around the world gather to celebrate Passover. At special holiday meals called seders, Jewish families say prayers, drink wine (grape juice for the kids) and eat food such as matzo. But most importantly, Jews retell the remarkable story of Passover.


Monique Polak, an author of young adult literature, enlightens readers as to the historical aspect of this holiday and thoroughly explores this very traditional festival as she investigates her own Jewish roots. As a daughter of a Holocaust survivor, Polak admits that she did not have a close connection to her religion and was not considered observant. But in the process of her researching this topic and interviewing a number of people, the story of Passover has recently gained new meaning for her, and she and readers are reminded of how fortunate we are to be able to freely practice our religion when this was not always so.

     The book contains four chapters devoted to exploring Passover in all its aspects:

What’s Passover All About?
Passover Before and After the Holocaust.
Passover in Action.
Passover Around the World.

     Each chapter is detailed with an abundance of information. The text contains many words that relate to the holiday and the Jewish religion. Most are highlighted in bold and explained in the Glossary. Personal stories of Holocaust survivors, Ben and Liselotte, add to the appeal and authenticity of his title. Ben’s story reflects how he and his family celebrated this special holiday before the beginning of World War II and then how the Holocaust impacted his life and those he loved as well as his feelings for his religion. These sentiments are echoed by Liselotte as she recounts her warm memories of the holiday as a youngster, contrasted with her experiences in the many concentration camps to which she was transferred. Both stories are poignantly shared and lend meaning to the importance of the holiday. Of greater importance is Liselotte’s attitude to her past, and it is one that is shared by many who lived through those traumatic times.

“I don’t call myself a survivor. I call myself a witness to history.”

      The chapter titled “Passover in Action”, deals with the obligation connected to this holiday to share, be charitable and do good in general. This concept, called Tzedakah, is an important part of the Jewish tradition and several examples are given.

     Labelled photographs of both the past and present are included. Sadly, several of the pictures are very small and hard to see, as are the captions which are in colored ink and also difficult to read. The actual layout of the book is attractive, yet at times, busy and distracting. Almost each page is peppered with a multitude of photos, sketches, comments, quotes, recipes, interesting facts in sidebars and columns, all relating to the topic at hand. It is almost as if Polak was trying to include every possible item she had, and the results are a bit messy and overwhelming. It leaves the reader wondering what to read first from all the choices on the page. A bit more editing would have benefited this informative book.

      A helpful glossary, and a list of references and resources are also included. Passover is the first in a series of books in the “Orca Origins” series which will examine “ancient traditions kept alive in the modern world”.


Reesa Cohen is a retired Instructor of Children’s Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

Next Review | Table of Contents for This Issue - November 20, 2015.

CM Home
| Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive