Editor Donald H. Harrison recently reviewed my chapter book for children ages 7-12, The Passover Surprise, in the San Diego Jewish World. His review is below. Best wishes! Janet
The Passover Surprise Is Brief Yet Topic Rich
The Passover Surprise by Janet Ruth Heller; illustrations by Ronald Kauffman; © 2015; Fictive Press; ISBN 978-1-927663-17-1; 35 pages including glossary and discussion guide.
SAN DIEGO –A lot of ground is covered in this story for middle schoolers. It begins with a pre-teenage girl, Lisa, competing with her younger brother, Jon, to win a stamp album, and moves on to a discussion of World War II, the experiences of African American soldiers, and the nascent American Civil Rights Movement taking place as the story unfolds, circa 1960.
Lisa and Jon both love collecting stamps in their beginner albums, but only one of them could win a larger stamp album owned by their dad. Although the siblings tied in their contest, their dad awarded the album to the younger child—definitely not fair in Lisa’s judgment.
How to talk to her dad about her feelings is one issue that is resolved in this story. Her feeling that her father was dismissing her aspirations because she was a girl is compared with the discrimination suffered by African-American soldiers with whom her father served.
There even is some discussion of Torah in this story, particular the tale about the daughters of Zelophehad, who lacking a brother to inherit their father’s land, successfully urged Moses to allow them to inherit it.
All this occurs in the weeks building up to Passover, the ceremonies of which are briefly explained for the uninitiated.
Most Middle School readers, I’m fairly sure, will probably guess the Passover surprise that Lisa receives.
Although the story is dated, it can trigger some interesting discussions comparing the Israelites’ escape to freedom with the struggle of African Americans to gain equality. It also teaches the necessity for an aggrieved child to calm down before trying to get an adult, especially a father, to see things her way.