Since my favorite picture books blend food with family, friends and cultural tradition, I was especially happy to hear that award winning author, poet, and Teaching Authors Poetry Friday friend April Halprin Wayland had written a brand new story that does just that, and it’s coming out next Tuesday, March 15!
Charmingly illustrated by Katie Kath, More Than Enough: A Passover Story (Dial BYR, 2016), is a joyous and heartwarming celebration of the holiday as well as a lyrical paean to the practice of gratitude.
We follow a family as they embrace the spirit of “Dayenu“ (a traditional seder song of thankfulness), while happily anticipating and enjoying their Passover feast. The two children revel in each activity leading up to and at the event: shopping at the farmers’ market (adopting a kitten!), tasting raindrops, chopping apples and walnuts to make charoset, putting on special clothes, and splashing in mud puddles as they walk to Nana’s house.
Once there, they join their relatives for the ceremonial meal with the seder plate of symbolic foods, ask the four questions, and sing a lively rendition of “Dayenu” (which means “it would have been enough”), to thank God for his many gifts to the Jewish people (leading them out of slavery, parting the Red Sea, giving of the Torah). Then it’s time for delicious matzoh balls, chicken, and jellied fruit slices before searching for the hidden afikomen (matzoh piece), and opening the door for the prophet Elijah while singing “Chad Gadya.” A Passover sleepover tops off the evening, as Nana wraps them in blankets, kisses their foreheads, and sings to them while rain gently taps on the window.
More Than Enough, told in spare melodic prose with the word “dayenu” recurring as a refrain throughout, is a lovely reminder to be wholly present and open to the blessings offered to us each moment of every day. Any one of this family’s experiences would have been more than enough to be thankful for; their joy at being blessed with so many gifts will inspire readers to take the time to slow down, heighten awareness, and express gratitude for things often taken for granted.
Katie Kath’s inviting and cozy watercolors brim with warmth and good feelings, while the universal themes of family, community, togetherness, and love of faith and tradition shine through. I enjoyed learning more about Passover rituals from this story and asked April how she and her family celebrate the holiday. I thank her for dropping by and for sharing a recipe for charoset (a sweet fruit and nut mixture traditionally eaten at the Passover seder). Special thanks to April’s sister Lyra for digging up photos of past seders with friends just for this post. Enjoy!
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🐱 AUTHOR CHAT WITH APRIL HALPRIN WAYLAND 🍎
Was Passover your favorite holiday when you were growing up?
Yes, Passover ranked right up there with Halloween, July 4th, Thanksgiving and Hannukah. I loved the ritual, the songs, the retelling of our ancient story of our freedom from bondage. I loved my extended family around a big table, the yummy specific-to-Passover foods, and everyone singing.
How did you participate in the preparations for this special celebration?
Mostly I walked in the door, I was bear-hugged by Uncle Raphael, Uncle Moish, Uncle Chuckie, Uncle Izzy, my cheeks were pinched and I was covered in lipstick kisses from Aunt Cissie, Aunt Polly, Aunt Fanny, Aunt Sue, Aunt Francis; I was seduced by tantalizing smells from Aunt Sylvia’s kitchen, and when we were called to the long table, I took my seat. Then the Seder (which simply means ceremonial meal) began.
What is your earliest memory of singing “Dayenu”?
Probably as a five or six-year old in a fantastic non-religious Saturday school in which we learned our culture, songs and rituals. I loved going there. Lots of crafts, lots of songs, lots of community, lots of good food. What’s not to like?
Could you please tell us a bit more about the symbolic foods on the Seder plate?
First, you need to know that there are many ways to spell and interpret nearly everything in Judaism. They say, “Two Jews, three opinions”–it’s true!
I continually asked three experts in Judaica (one of whom lives in Israel) about spellings, symbolism, history, etc. In many cases there was no one correct answer, which drove me under the table with a napkin over my head!
I’ll tell you about one item on the Seder plate, Maror, which means bitter herb. This is often represented on the plate with horseradish—which looks like a white carrot. You can imagine the tricks we played on unsuspecting visitors who thought it was a kind of carrot–yowzah! Maror represents the bitterness of slavery. But we are also encouraged to look at ways we are still enslaved by addictions or habits.
You can read a clear explanation of each item on the Seder plate here.
What is your family’s favorite Seder dish?
Charoset—hands down. Either plain or spooned onto matzoh. The father, mother, brother and sister in my book make it together. Yum, yum, yum!
Are there any special activities or rituals that are exclusive to your family?
My family goes with the flow!
The Haggadah is a little book every Seder uses which includes the order of the ritual meal, the story of Passover, poetry and songs. What’s wonderful is that synagogues and homes around the world create their own Haggadahs in which they add songs, poems and personal commentary on our history…and our responsibilities to heal the world today.
My family sometimes attends a beautiful, organic, farmers market-supplied Seder hosted by friends who have created a poetic and socially active Haggadah.
Is there a particular Passover celebration (either from your childhood or adulthood) that stands out in your memory?
One favorite Passover was when I was a visiting author in England, where we were invited to the home of a PTA mom who put on an elaborate puppet show enacting the Passover story with her kids.
Another favorite was when I was speaking in Germany. My son and I gathered the symbolic foods (or close surrogates) and carefully arranged them on a towel in our hotel room in Berlin.
What was your reaction when you first saw Katie Kath’s illustrations?
Oh, my–how beautiful her palette is; how her illustrations glow!
Which picture is your favorite and why?
I LOVE the farmer’s market scene.
And there’s something about Katie Kath’s spot illustration of the little girl looking in the mirror as she dresses for dinner…her narrow, bare back moves me.
I love when the boy opens the door for the prophet Elijah—that brings back memories of opening the door in my own grandmother’s kitchen.
And I love the back of the book jacket, showing the family watch the girl’s kite rise in the sky.
There’s so much to love!
Why did you include the part about rescuing the kitten in your story?
There’s a long, long story about how this book came to be…so much changed from the first draft over many years! But when my wonderful editor, Jessica Garrison, asked me to delete the kitten, I balked. One of my friends suggested that the kitten had an important part to play in the story of Passover. After all, she said, wasn’t the family in the book freeing the kitten from its animal shelter cage, just as Jews were freed from slavery? Yes, yes, of course! And so the kitten stayed in the story.
Please tell us about your cat and how you acquired her.
The week before my son began middle school, we found the perfect cat in a shelter. We were told to return in a week, after he was neutered. When I went back for him, there had been a mix-up; our kitten had been adopted to someone else! So when school got out on the first day of 6th grade, he and I drove to a vet who rescued cats. There was one tortoiseshell kitten left from a litter: the runt. We adopted her. My husband isn’t a fan of cats, so, in an effort to start them bonding, we let him name her. Which is why her name is…Snot.
My son will be 27 in two months, and affectionate Snot, with the world’s loudest purr, is still as small as a kitten, with a squeaky voice and lots of energy.
What do you hope young readers will take away from your story?
I sooo hope they grasp the idea of being aware of the moment.
Being grateful for what you have at this moment is part of religions and philosophies the world over. It’s a big idea for little kids. For me, too!
I have a lovely, quiet alarm on my phone which goes off at 2:50pm every day. No one else can hear it; it’s my reminder to take a breath, to be aware of my feet on the ground, my body in this place. To be aware of how lucky I am to be here.
What blessings are you thankful for at this very moment?
I am thankful for you, Jama. For the stunning and imaginative work on your blog.
I am thankful that my boy and my husband are healthy.
I am thankful that I have a licky, happy, goofball dog (Eli) and a wonderful purry pillow-mate, Snot.
I am thankful that my friends play music with me.
I am thankful that I have a seat in this most generous field of kidlit.
Charoset is a mixture, often made of apples or dates, nuts, cinnamon, honey, and wine or grape juice, symbolizing the mortar Jewish slaves used when they built structures for the Egyptians.
Here’s one recipe—every region has its own:
- 1 pound (about 3 large) apples, cored and chopped
- 1/2 to 1 cup (2 to 4 ounces) chopped almonds or walnuts
- 1 to 2 tablespoons honey
- About 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- About 1/4 cup sweet red wine
Chop together the apples, nuts, honey, and cinnamon.
Stir in enough wine to make a paste. Spoon onto matzoh; enjoy!
Jama’s Note: I made charoset for the first time and loved it! As you can see, it calls for just a few ingredients and is a breeze to make if you toss everything into a food processor. Such a nice fresh flavor and you can substitute grape juice for the wine if you like. Some of you may remember that I’ve been hoping to be adopted by a Jewish grandmother. So far I’ve made latkes and charoset — I’m well on my way, don’t you think? 🙂
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MORE THAN ENOUGH: A Passover Story
written by April Halprin Wayland
illustrated by Katie Kath
published by Dial Books for Young Readers, March 2016
Picture Book for ages 3-5, 40 pp.
*Includes detailed Glossary, Author’s Notes, and Music & Lyrics for “Dayenu”
**On shelves March 15, 2016
♥ Click here to attend April’s Online SCBWI Launch Party for More Than Enough (enter to win a signed copy of the book by April 19).
♥ Check in with Teaching Authors for more posts about this book! Today, April discusses the genesis of this book, and next week, we’ll hear more from illustrator Katie Kath and book designer Mina Chung. There’s also a Rafflecopter Giveaway for a signed copy running through March 31!
♥ Lucky peeps who live near Manhattan Beach, CA — April’s Book Launch and Pre-School Story Time will be held at pages: A Bookstore on Saturday, March 26, 2016, at 11. am. (please RSVP)! If you can’t attend, you may order an autographed book by calling the bookstore: 310-318-0900, or by sending an email to: info (at) pagesabookstore (dot) com.
📘 SPECIAL BOOK GIVEAWAY 📗
For a chance to win a brand new copy of More Than Enough, please leave a comment at this post telling us what you are thankful for at this very moment no later than midnight (EST) Wednesday, March 16, 2016. You may also enter by sending an email with “PASSOVER” in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good Luck!
Listen to a few bars of “Dayenu” in this adorable book trailer:
🍵 ALPHA BETA CHOWDER GIVEAWAY WINNER!🍴
Doodle-ee-doo, so many funny words submitted as your favorites last week —
Words like nincompoop, serendipity, addlepated, discombobulate, gobbledygook, and a new personal favorite, “Jama-balaya” :)!
Alas and alack, there can only be one winner, and it is
*drum roll please*
🎈🎈🎈 IZA TRAPANI! 🎈🎈🎈
Woo Hoo!! CONGRATULATIONS IZA!
(Iza offered “bamboozle” as her favorite word.)
Iza, please send along your snail mail address so we can dutifully dispatch this bellicose boffo belligerent bonkers batty book!
Thanks for playing, everyone!!
The lovely and talented Irene Latham is hosting the Roundup at Live Your Poem. Dance over and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere this week. Enjoy your weekend!
*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2016 April Halprin Wayland, illustrations © 2016 Katie Kath, published by Dial BYR, 2016. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.