Review: Where Is Poppy?

Where Is Poppy?

by Caroline Kusin Pritchard, illustrated by Dana Wulfkotte

Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2024

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Jeff Gottesfeld

Buy at

A young girl attends the first Passover seder after the death of her beloved Poppy. So much is familiar -- "the same chasing cousins, the same squishy seats" -- but her Poppy has clearly passed away. It's hard for the young heroine emotionally, not to have this man leading the seder and influencing her life, with everything from his secret ingredient for pumping up the chicken soup to his pithy life advice when the girl would sit on his lap. Finally, though, as the adults tell her that Poppy is here, the heroine understands that Poppy lives in in their singing, Passover traditions like an orange on the seder plate, and the over-enthusiastic singing of Dayenu.

Pritchard has crafted a touching story, with simple, appropriate, and equally touching art from Wulfkotte. I especially like the way the author and artist work together to change the emotional space of the protagonist, as she moves from missing and longing to realization to something like acceptance of life's fleeting nature. Poppy was a real person, the Author's Note shares, and it is easy see how that reality helps to make this story -- familiar to anyone who has a holiday after a loss -- tug at the heart in the best possible way. There's some tonal discordance every so often, where the authorial voice tends to intrude over the girl narrator, but that's a mere quibble with this affecting story.

The Jewish representation in this book is entirely authentic, though clearly within non-Orthodox circles as indicated by the aforementioned orange on the seder plate, and the very direct invocation of tikkun olam in the "we were slaves in Egypt" declaration. It would be easy to use this book as a teaching tool, because all the familiar Passover rituals seem to be invoked, from the asking of the four questions to the opening of the door for Elijah, to the phrase "next year in Jerusalem." This is a book that will be better received in non-Orthodox Jewish circles than anywhere else, but there's no reason it cannot be appreciated by the larger world community. 

Editor's Note: This book was included on the Association of Jewish Libraries' Spring 2024 Holiday Highlights list.

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

Reviewer Jeff Gottesfeld writes for page, stage, and screen. His most recent Jewish-themed picture book is The Christmas Mitzvah, illustrated by Michelle Agatha (Creston, 2021), a Sydney Taylor Honor title. His most recent title is Food for Hope, illustrated by Agatha, again for Creston (2023), winner of the 2023 Goddard-Riverside Social Justice Book Award prize.