Review: I Love Matzah

I Love Matzah by Freidele Galya Soban Biniashvili, illustrated by Angelika Scudamore

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Jeff Gottesfeld

This is the perfect time to review a board book for very young children about the pleasures and perils of eating matzah, smack in the midst of the Pesach holiday itself. Biniashvili has penned a simple, short, rhyming story about a toddler child (could be a boy could be a girl, though this male reviewer initially interpreted the art as a boy) who eats matzah in many ways through the Passover holiday -- for breakfast, with cheese, with carrots, and even for dessert. The rhymes are highlighted in the text, easy enough for a child to catch as the book is read loud, and it's easy to imagine happy shouting of rhymes like fish/dish, away/tray, stroll/bowl, and noon/spoon. There are plenty of cues for the Passover holiday, too, with the child eating from special Passover plates, drinking from Passover cups, and a little brother wearing a bib that asks pointedly, "Got matzah?" Many adults have a love/hate relationship with the bread of affliction, but it is easy to see how this book could get little kids charged up about Passover, and the crumbly fun of matzah consumption. Though typical favorites like matzah pizza, matzah brei, and matzah smeared in hummus or peanut butter are not mentioned, there are plenty of healthy alternatives that are. The "Happy Passover!" on the final board is one more note of celebration. This book could make kids forget about bread for eight days.

I LOVE MATZAH is an authentic and honest depiction of a Jewish toddler -- we know the child is a toddler, from the high chair in the art -- enjoying the most essential of all Passover foods, matzah. This is another of the burgeoning number of picture books with obviously non-white protagonists and families where the non-whiteness is incidental to the story. The only identity that matters in the text is that the family is Jewish, and is the only identity that is referred to by the author and illustrator. The author and artist have done their homework, and understand that children engage with matzah in many ways and at different times, and that part of the fun of the holiday is the many ways in which it can be consumed...and crumbled. There is a clear nuclear family with mother, father, and two children, sitting together, on the final board. The artwork supports the text well, and together create a book that is suitable for the very young audience for which it is intended. The time period is contemporary, as depicted in the artwork, but the story is timeless and will endure.

Are you interested in reviewing books for The Sydney Taylor Shmooze? Click here!

Reviewer Jeff Gottesfeld is a writer for page, stage, and both big and small screens. His works have won awards from the American Library Association, the Writers Guild of America, the American Alliance for Theater and Education, and the National Council for the Social Studies. His THE TREE IN THE COURTYARD (Knopf, 2016), with illustrations by Peter McCarty, was a Sydney Taylor Honor Book and has been translated into eight languages. His most recent book, with illustrations by Shiella Witanto is NO STEPS BEHIND: BEATE SIROTA GORDON'S BATTLE FOR WOMEN'S RIGHTS IN JAPAN (Creston, March 3, 2020), a Junior Library Guild selection.