This animal story may help explain why Jews became known as the People of the Book: Even the holiest books might include jokes or fables or riddles.
This picture book, arguably, includes all three. It’s a very silly story about a very serious problem. Wieder explains that, when they’re preparing for the holiday of Passover, observant Jews are required “to remove all leavened food, or chometz—down to the last bread crumb!” Fastidious Jews are never certain when it’s safe to stop searching. The Babylonian Talmud addressed the issue with a sort of brainteaser, paraphrased in the author’s note at the end of this book: “The Jewish sages discussed the possibility of mice bringing chometz into a house that had already been searched for it.” Kober takes the passage as an opportunity to paint utterly adorable mice with heads shaped like apostrophes. (He also finds a surprising variety of shades in the skin tones of the human Jewish villagers.) And the author not only works in a chase scene, with townspeople and a cat, but somehow makes a quote from the Talmud seem like a punchline. The endless arguments about cats and mice concludes with: “…This question is not decided.” But the story ends on a touching note, as the whole village joins together in a last-minute search for breadcrumbs.
A book that fits moving scenes, puzzles, and mice into the same story is an excellent addition to the Jewish tradition. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-7)