The Longest Night: A Passover Story

Overview

Here's a picture book for all Jewish families to read while celebrating Passover. Unlike other Passover picture books that focus on the contemporary celebration of the holiday, or are children's haggadahs, this gorgeous picture book in verse follows the actual story of the Exodus. Told through the eyes of a young slave girl, author Laurel Snyder and illustrator Catia Chien skillfully and gently depict the story of Pharoah, Moses, the 10 plagues, and the parting of the Red Sea in a remarkably accessible way. ...

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Overview

Here's a picture book for all Jewish families to read while celebrating Passover. Unlike other Passover picture books that focus on the contemporary celebration of the holiday, or are children's haggadahs, this gorgeous picture book in verse follows the actual story of the Exodus. Told through the eyes of a young slave girl, author Laurel Snyder and illustrator Catia Chien skillfully and gently depict the story of Pharoah, Moses, the 10 plagues, and the parting of the Red Sea in a remarkably accessible way. 

"Evocative and beautiful... flawlessly evokes the spirit of the Old Testament story," raves Publishers Weekly in a starred review. This dramatic adventure, set over 3,500 years ago, of a family that endures hardships and ultimately finds freedom is the perfect tool to help young children make sense of the origins of the Passover traditions.

Winner of the 2014 Sydney Taylor Book Award for Younger Readers

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Pamela Paul
…a captivating Passover story…for curious children searching for context and immediacy, the story—full of tense action that gains momentum as the pages turn—is pitched just right. Catia Chien's forceful, textured paintings beautifully evoke the dusty sandscape and drench the final happy homecoming in rich, hopeful sunlight.
Publishers Weekly
Evocative and beautiful, this rhyming rendition of a young Jewish slave girl’s experience during the ten plagues and exodus from Egypt flawlessly evokes the spirit of that Old Testament story. As one of thousands of children forced into harsh labor by the pharaoh, this unnamed girl shares her bleak outlook on life, until suddenly and inexplicably, strange epidemics begin afflicting the Egyptians while miraculously leaving the Jews unscathed. “Itching, biting, awful fleas/ Brought our masters to their knees./ Strange to see them scratch and fuss,/ Hurt and helpless just like us.” The poignant yet hopeful rhymes join with striking watercolor illustrations to produce a narrative that will captivate both children and adults. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Tina Wexler, ICM. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, February 18, 2013:
“The poignant yet hopeful rhymes join with striking watercolor illustrations to produce a narrative that will captivate both children and adults.”
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
A young unnamed Jewish slave girl in Egypt describes her life of back-breaking work, grinding poverty and cruel masters in this recounting of the Ten Plagues visited upon the Egyptians before the Exodus. The watercolor pictures throughout the book are murky and gloomy, reflecting the hard, toil-filled life of the Hebrew slaves. Occasional pictures of hopeful blue skies appear, but overall, the pictures reflect a life of sadness. Then the plagues of blood, frogs, fleas, beasts, cattle disease, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and death of the first born Egyptian sons come and the Jews observe the gradual diminution of their masters by divine wrath. The child narrator appears fearful of the disasters befalling Egypt, which would be logical. The plague of beasts is shown as an invasion of wolves. In fact, this should probably have been shown as wolf jackals, but wolves may be easier for American children to understand. Finally, the Jews are released and cross the desert, free once they reach the Red Sea which divides for them so that the tribe can cross to freedom. The colors of the book become bright, as do the smiling faces of the rejoicing people. The book presupposes knowledge of the Passover story. There is a brief retelling of the Exodus in an author's forward, and a glossary of more difficult words used in the book's rhyming couplets. Because the story is told in this poetic form, it has a bit of a choppy, song-song quality, not unlike the Four Questions told by the youngest child at a family Seder. The rhymes don't exactly flow like the Nile, but they do offer a new and interesting "other side" perspective of an enslaved child. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
Kirkus Reviews
A Jewish child living under Pharaoh's rule narrates the days marred by the devastation caused by the 10 plagues and the Jews' exodus from Egypt. Working as hard as any adult slave, this young girl expresses her bewilderment and fear as leaping frogs and itching, biting fleas disturb the masters. Fatal illness creeps in, affecting beast and man except in the Jewish homes marked with lamb's blood. Rhyming verse carries the Passover story with a lyrical flair. "Made our way to sifting sands, / Scrambling feet, but clasping hands. / Thirsting, thrilling, full of fright— / None of us were slaves that night." Ominously dark and murky paintings done in acrylic portray the frightened, fleeing throng finally reaching a wild, thrashing sea that is "ripped in two!" Confusion and trepidation turn to joyful surprise, as indicated by the rose-colored backdrop behind a smiling daughter and mother, thrilled to have crossed over to the open land and freedom. This poetic, child-oriented interpretation brings a dramatic insight and illumination to the ancient legend. A vivid and compelling introduction to the 10 plagues portion of the Seder ceremony. (author's note, glossary) (Picture book/religion. 5-7)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 5—This picture book retells the biblical story of the 10 plagues and the Exodus from Egypt from the point of view of a Jewish slave child. Rhyming first-person couplets offer a you-are-there emotional vibe to readers already familiar with the basics of the story. Darkly atmospheric, folk-style acrylic paintings add gravitas and drama. An author's note explains the inspiration for the retelling, and a short glossary defines potentially unfamiliar words. The subtitle, "A Passover Story," and the Seder memories in the author's note, show that the book comes from a Jewish perspective; however, others interested in the Exodus will also find the book useful. While it does not provide enough context or detail to act as an introduction to the story of the Exodus, the emotional angle makes it a great supplement to other more straightforward tellings.—Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375869426
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 2/12/2013
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 945,930
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

LAUREL SNYDER is the author of several Jewish-themed books for young children, among them Nosh, Schlep, Schluff: Baby Yiddish; Baxter, the Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher; as well as the novels Bigger than a Breadbox, Penny Dreadful, Any Which Wall, and Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains. 

CATIA CHIEN is the illustrator of The Sea Serpent and Me by Dashka Slater. She grew up in Brazil and now lives and paints in Southern California. 

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