________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 26. . . . March 9, 2018


The Passover Parrot. Rev. Ed.

Evelyn Zusman. Illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker.
Minneapolis, MN: KAR-BEN/Lerner (Distributed in Canada by Thomas Allen & Son), 2018.
32 pp., paperback, $10.99.
ISBN 978-1-5124-2883-4.

Subject Headings:
Passover-Juvenile fiction.
Judaism-Customs and practices-Juvenile fiction.
Parrots-Juvenile fiction.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Harriet Zaidman.

*** /4


Mah nishtanah halailah hazeh Why is this night different from other nights? The question is usually asked by children on Passover, and the usual answer is that people recline instead of sitting up straight.

internal art     But in a re issue of the late Evelyn Zusman’s (d. 1995) picture book The Passover Parrot, this night is different because a parrot asks the question instead of a Lily, the little girl who’s been practising for her big moment at the family seder. It shows how hard Lily has been practising and what a good listener Hametz, the parrot is. The story is accompanied by endearing paintings by Krysten Brooker.

It’s a story, though, that leaves a few questions unanswered. On the first page, Lily talks about her two brothers. A reader would normally assume those are all her siblings. But two pages later Zusman writes, “Before Mama could say, ‘Seven children and a parrot.’” More children are named subsequently, but it’s never indicated with certainty that they are Lily’s siblings, too.

internal art     It’s clear the book is written with a reader who is familiar with Jewish holidays and customs.

“Haggadot?” Joey asked.

“Check,” I said.


“Mmm!” Becky said, sampling some.

     Brooker’s expressive watercolour and collage paintings effectively set the story in an indistinct time is it the 1970s or the 2000s? The characters have big heads and coy smiles. She provides just enough detail in the setting to suggest a typical, bustling household. Zusman’s parrot has a big personality, and Brooker captures it through her representation.

     Zusman, a New Yorker, was a teacher in Hebrew schools and wrote several books for children related to Jewish themes. The Passover Parrot is suitable for school collections and families that relate to those themes.


Harriet Zaidman, a children’s writer and book reviewer, lives in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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