In Wellesley College professor Susan Meyer’s newest picture book, Matzah Belowstairs, Miriam Mouse takes pride in her job as forager for her family, who lives “Belowstairs.” Every year at Passover, she’s been able to find and deliver the “crunchy, flat matzah” they all love, but this year things are different. The “Upstairs” dwellers, the human Winkler family, have put the traditional unleavened bread on serious lockdown, jeopardizing the Mouse family’s Passover celebration.
Even young Eli, who once could be counted on to drop food on the floor, has developed a steadier hand at the table, not letting go of even a crumb for Miriam to ferry off to her family. When Eli’s dad hides the afikomen, a piece of matzah he wraps in an embroidered napkin, Miriam is watching. Anything hidden at mouse-level is fair game, so Miriam sees her chance, takes the matzah, and runs.
But Eli’s family needs the afikomen to finish the seder, and it’s Eli’s job to find it. “Can you find it, Eli?” asks his dad. Eli finds the afikomen and comes face-to-whiskers with Miriam. What will happen? Both mouse and human families need the afikomen to finish the seder.
Eli and Miriam both learn how to make a friend, keep a secret, and save the day in this charming book in which the youngest members of the families manage their big responsibilities with even bigger hearts.
When illustrator Mette Engell’s uses split-screen pictures of the human family at the top half of the page and the mouse family below, he give readers an especially good look at how humans and mice are after the same thing — the time and the means to celebrate with their families.
Passover is the major Jewish spring festival which commemorates the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Passover this year begins the evening of Friday, April 19 and ends the evening of Saturday, April 27.
Author: Susan Lynn Meyer
Full color illustrations by Mette Engell
Ages: 4 – 8
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
Other books by Meyer: New Shoes; Skating With the Statue of Liberty; and Black Radishes, which was inspired by her father’s experiences as a Jewish boy in Nazi-occupied France. Black Radishes won a Sydney Taylor silver medal and was a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award.