THE FOUR QUESTIONS by Lynne Sharon Schwartz
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In a striking picture-book, the story of Passover is told through answering the four questions traditionally asked at the beginning of the Seder. With admirable lucidity, Schwartz explains the origins of the holidays, setting the tone with her first sentence: ""On a certain night each year when the dark of winter is passing and the world is warming up for the green of spring, Jews in all lands gather to celebrate a joyful holiday."" Briefly, she describes how Passover began, as well as the symbolic significance of the meal and of reclining while eating. But it is the full-color gouache illustrations that set this apart. Sherman's paintings are engagingly attractive: in deep, rich hues set off by black borders, he depicts animals celebrating the Seder; the composition of a large panel with a smaller, inverted panel below it is ingenious and effective, since these inverted panels often face the Hebrew text of the questions. Some people may be disconcerted by the whales carrying purses and wearing feathered hats, by file elephants with pierced ears, and particularly by the bearded apes with earlocks, wearing yarmulkes. It is fine to see all breathing life joyfully celebrating this festival of freedom, but startling to see them in odds and ends of human attire. So--while this is lovely and useful--be warned that it is also a little odd.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1989
Page count: 40pp
Publisher: Dial