The Passover Guest

Written by Sean Rubin (illus.) Susan Kusel
Review by Lyn Miller-Lachmann

In 1933 during the Great Depression, young Muriel walks through Washington, D.C. staring at the cherry blossoms and the Lincoln Memorial, where a man in rags sits on the steps. She hands him her last penny. Muriel’s family is Jewish and it’s Passover, but they don’t have money for the traditional seder because her father is out of work. She returns home amid the aromas of neighbors’ cooking. Her father suggests they visit their neighbors to celebrate this holiday of the Jews’ escape from Egypt thousands of years ago, but there’s a knock at their door. The ragged man has summoned a feast, a miracle.

This interpretation of the classic I. L. Peretz story, adapted by Uri Shulevitz in 1973, sets it in a time of great hardship in the United States. As families face both a deadly pandemic and its economic fallout, this picture book for a new generation shows the importance of kindness even when one is struggling. Lively illustrations blend the realistic Depression setting and the quirky, surrealistic images of Jewish artists such as Marc Chagall.