Kar-Ben. Jan. 2024. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781728475363.
PreS-K–This Passover-meets-detective story doesn’t reach its potential. The unnamed first-person narrator, a personified and fully dressed little bear, explains how the family is preparing for Passover. They make and gather all of the items for the seder plate. Skipping entirely over the ceremonial meal, the story jumps to after dinner when the narrator (wearing a deerstalker hat) searches for the missing matzah or “afikomen.” Using their toy elephant, Elfie, who has been modified to be an “Afiko-Sniffer,” they search unsuccessfully around the house, creating messes as they go. Deciding Elfie isn’t working, they retrieve the toolbox to fix it, only to find the afikomen. Though uninspired, the spare and straightforward text is accessible to a young audience. The concept of the child using their toy to search is certainly appealing. The illustrations, which appear to be done in a layered 3D collage, are engaging and have the feel of a flannel board. While some of the bear family’s eyes are somewhat disconcerting, the narrator is appealing, and the dimensionality of the illustrations give them an almost tactile feel. The story definitely has a childlike sensibility, but the lack of any explanation of the seder and the narrow focus on the afikomen leaves one with no sense of the experience or importance of the holiday. Back matter explains the afikomen, but also neglects the rest of the holiday.
VERDICT Jewish schools and libraries in search of unusual Passover stories might find a place for this one. Others can pass.

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