Just before Passover began this year I was fortunate to meet with some Jews who introduced me to the Passover ritual of telling stories of freedom: Haggadah.
I learned that Haggadah freedom stories can vary from family to family, and community to community, and I was shown inside a copy of an old illustrated Haggadah book. I remarked upon it being a children’s book but I was corrected. Seder which includes Haggadah is a family event. I, like many adults in society, have unwittingly developed expectations of visual storytelling for adults as being removed from print and oral imaginative events into the restricted arena of movie screens – which are conventions that are only a century old.
I won’t show the photos I took of the old Haggadah’s inner illustrations because they depict Moses (upon him be peace) leading the Israelites to freedom from Pharoah (and Muslims do not depict prophets). Likewise, Sammy Spider’s First Haggadah includes illustrations of Moses. The illustrations are simplified, however, and could easily be coloured over to remove all detail. I am considering doing this for my children because I would love to show them the Jewish women who followed Moses looking just like contemporary Muslim women. Also the Seder meal and service – of which the Haggadah is a part – is shown clearly, with songs, and is brightly illustrated.
However, for its creativity, and in terms of accessibility for Muslims, I best like Sammy Spider’s First Passover. Readers can learn about Passover through the Shapiro family’s activities, which include Josh’s search for the afikomen on a visually satisfying spread. And the book also discusses shapes through web-making so as to invite readers to play with shapes to make a star. I haven’t actually read it to my children yet but we’ve chatted with enthusiasm about Jews, Passover, and Sammy Spider.
Insha’Allah for next year I am inclined to use oral storytelling for freedom stories at Passover. But if you know of a Haggadah book that does not include pictures of any prophets please do let me know.
I am the author of Religious Rhyme Time, an Abrahamic children’s interfaith book, as well as Islamic Nursery Rhymes. I love eating chocolate while I write, and, with strictly chocolate-free fingers, I also create Muslim and interfaith children’s gifts for book people at my Etsy shop, BarakahBedtimesUK.
I’m on Twitter @elizabethlymer.
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