cover image The Passover Guest

The Passover Guest

Susan Kusel, illus. by Sean Rubin. Holiday House/Porter, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8234-4562-2

In this picture book retelling of I.L. Peretz’s “The Magician,” it’s the height of the Great Depression, and young Muriel and her family, who live in Washington, D.C., are facing a bleak Passover. They “didn’t have enough to eat even on ordinary days,” writes debut author Kusel, and there’s certainly no wine for Prophet Elijah’s cup. As Muriel walks home past the city’s landmarks—rendered in Chagall-inspired, curvilinear art by Rubin—she encounters a clownlike man on the Lincoln Memorial steps and shares her plight; that evening, he reappears at her family’s door, conjuring up a magnificent Passover meal. When their rabbi confirms it’s not an illusion, the entire Jewish community celebrates together, and it dawns on Muriel that the fellow was Elijah himself. With its warm, forthright narrative and beautifully evoked setting, this book is an enchanting addition to the Passover shelf. Notes from the creators discuss the book’s beginnings. Ages 4–8. [em](Jan.) [/em]