Review: A Persian Passover

A Persian Passover

by Etan Basseri, illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh

Kalaniot Books (imprint of Endless Mountains Publishing Company), 2022

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Bridget Hodder

Buy at Kalaniot

Years ago, at NerdCamp Michigan, I once had the privilege of hearing author Tracey Baptiste talk about #ownvoices representation. Her words evoked powerful images and feelings as she described her Caribbean island childhood, demonstrating how much deeper a story can go when it's told by one who has actually lived it.

But why am I talking about Tracey Baptiste in a review of a book by Etan Basseri and illustrator Rashin Kheiriyeh?

Because I was reminded of how valid Baptiste's points were, while reading Basseri and Kheiriyeh's vibrant, immersive picture book about Mizrahi Jews. Readers can tell that the author and the illustrator have genuine cultural experience related to their subject, which is a Passover celebration in mid 20th-century Persia, now known as Iran. Every page feels warm, welcoming, and true. Yet that is not the only reason to love this little gem of a book.

A Persian Passover is the deceptively simple tale of a brother and sister who love running, racing, and calculating how long it takes to perform even the most ordinary of actions. "It's good to be fast, but it's also important to be careful," old Mrs. Pirnazar warns them. Alas, the children don't heed her advice, resulting in a bag full of smashed, wet matzah just when the family needs matzah the most-- Passover! In search of more matzah, the children comb the colorful, flavorful Persian marketplace -- taking the reader on a cultural and culinary tour. Just when the children have lost all hope, an unexpected solution presents itself in the form of a truly apt and welcome Passover guest.

With informative religious and cultural material at the end of the book, including a genuine historic Persian charoset recipe, A Persian Passover will be a perfect source of learning and discussion in classrooms and homes, amongst kids of any background. I highly recommend this lively, diverse addition to the literature for children...and for everyone!

[Ed. Note: A Persian Passover was included on the Association of Jewish Libraries' Holiday Highlights list for Spring 2022.]

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

Reviewer Bridget Hodder is author of THE RAT PRINCE from Macmillan/FSG, and co-author with Fawzia Gilani Williams of THE BUTTON BOX from Kar-Ben Publishing. THE BUTTON BOX is a Middle Grade time-travel tale, featuring interfaith Sephardic and Muslim friendship and exciting historical adventure in North Africa (released April 1, 2022) . Bridget and Fawzia also have a picture book, THE PROMISE, coming from Kar-Ben in 2023.