Review: Everybody's Book: The Story of the Sarajevo Haggadah

Everybody's Book: The Story of the Sarajevo Haggadah

by Linda Leopold Strauss, illustrated by Tim Smart

Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group), 2024

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Rinat Hadad Siegel

In the recent hard times the Jewish community has experienced worldwide, a book like The Story of the Sarajevo Haggadah helped me find seeds of light and comfort. Sometimes, when we look for a book for young readers that captures the Jewish experience in a way that conveys the complexity of being a Jew, we are unsure where to turn. This book artfully does just that. 

Linda Leopold Strauss found a true story that combines history, perseverance, comradeship, bravery, and, most importantly, humanity and hope. The story follows the path of a hand-painted, hand-lettered Haggadah. The book opens in 1995 in Bosnia and then jumps back to 14th-century Spain, when a Jewish couple gets married and is gifted that Haggadah. The first danger the Haggadah encounters is the Spanish Inquisition. The family who owns it escapes, and the Haggadah relocates to Bosnia and, after many years, ends up in the Sarajevo National Museum. It is beloved and cherished by all, but the dangers keep coming. During WWII, it is rescued from the Nazis by a Muslim scholar, a Croat Catholic, and an Imam. Then again, during The Yugoslav Wars, the Haggadah was saved by a Muslim professor who came to the rescue as bombs landed around the city. In 1995, a Passover miracle occurred when the Bosnian president surprised the Jewish community during a Seder and brought the Haggadah from an underground vault. We don't have a classic plot or an in-depth look at the characters. Instead, I found the Haggadah to be a metaphor for the Jewish people, moving and shifting between places and surrounded by miracles and acts of courage and kindness.

The illustrations throughout the story are marvelous and seem to link directly to the actual illustrations in the Sarajevo Haggadah. They bring forth warm pallets of color and authentic details from the different settings of the story. I especially enjoyed the images of the different hands that delivered and received the Haggadah and, in the end, all the different hands of the people who browsed it.

The author magnificently combined reports of many individuals from different backgrounds with one common goal: preserve and keep a book that belongs to everyone. One sentence brings forth the message of this beautiful story: "The Sarajevo Haggadah...By now, it had become a symbol of hope—hope that kindness and understanding would be stronger than hatred."

This book has come at the perfect time for young and old readers from all backgrounds to be inspired by this remarkable story and learn about tolerance and hope.

Illustration Editor Dena Bach adds: Be aware that the Hebrew lettering in the images of the pages and the cover of the Hagaddah might be confusing to some. Though the lettering style resembles that in the Sarajevo Hagaddah, the cover image, for example, might not read as "Hagaddah" to readers of Modern Hebrew.

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Reviewer Rinat Hadad Siegel was born in Israel to a Jewish Mizrahi family. She is a children’s book author and a former educator and resource teacher for elementary and middle-school-aged children. Rinat received her Bachelor’s Degree from the Ben Gurion University of the Negev and holds a Master’s in Education from the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. Exploring Mizrahi roots is one of Rinat’s passions, and she aspires to promote and add diverse Jewish history into children’s literature. Find more information at


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