Review: Alligator Seder

Alligator Seder by Jessica Hickman, illustrated by Elissambura

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Lila Spitz

This board book by first-time author and native Floridian, Jessica Hikman, chronicles a family of alligators as they prepare-for and celebrate Passover.

The book incorporates an A, B, C, B end rhyming pattern. For example:

A Every year in Florida,
B Our favorite sunshine state,
C A very special family
B takes out its Seder plate.

The book also includes information about alligators such as their habitat and their physical features. It states,“. . . Her cooking is the best in the entire Everglade. . . Their many extra teeth make for an even louder crunch. The meal is being served now, and the gators start to chomp. The delicious smells of dinner go drifting through the swamp”.

The illustrator used layers of vibrant color and texture to create cartoon alligators and their swampy environment. The simple, yet playful illustrations depict alligators completing traditional aspects of the Passover Seder. This includes searching for chametz, setting the Seder table, giving the youngest person the honor of reading The Four Questions, telling the Passover story, and searching for the Afikomen.

This educational and entertaining board book provides a window into the Passover traditions of a Jewish family. However, it is different from other stories about families celebrating Passover, because this family is not human, they are alligators. It is not unusual for children’s books to include anthropomorphic characters. The non-human nature of the characters makes the book whimsical and fun.

Alligator Seder authentically and accurately includes Jewish religious and cultural vocabulary such as: Seder plate , chametz, gefilte fish, Mama lights the candles, Papa blesses the wine , “. . . the gators all recline. . . ”, The Four Questions, Passover Story, matzah, afikomen, it meets the requirements to be considered for the Sidney Taylor Book Award. Its concise story, simple illustrations and the low number of pages (10) make it appropriate for the intended audience of 1-4 year-olds. I recommend for it to be included in a religious school library or for it to be gifted to an individual child for Passover.

Its literary quality and Jewish relevance make it a contender for a notable book.

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Reviewer Lila Spitz is an employee of Alexandria Library in Virginia, and a recent MLIS graduate of Catholic University with a concentration in School Library Media. She has been published in WETA’s Boundary Stones, a local history blog, and FACES, a Smithsonian world cultures children’s magazine.