Tracy Newman is the author of more than 10 Jewish books for young readers, most of them about celebrating holidays. Her newest book, AROUND THE PASSOVER TABLE (Albert Whitman & Company) is a delightful picture book that takes readers through the entire seder with lyrical rhyming text. The illustrations by Adriana Santos depict a loving, relatable family. AROUND THE PASSOVER TABLE is sure to be a family favorite.
Welcome, Tracy! Tell me a bit about your new book and what inspired it.
My new book, AROUND THE PASSOVER TABLE, was inspired by my desire to write a story about the Passover Seder in the style of the cumulative nursery rhyme, The House that Jack Built. Given that the Seder has so many steps that follow sequentially, I thought it made good material for this type of a telling. However, once I started writing the story, the cumulative part seemed to drag. Instead, I cut, cut, cut and instead wrote about the steps of the Seder individually.
What is the biggest challenge when writing in rhyme?
For me, rhythm is the biggest challenge when writing in rhyme. Hearing the beats and the stress on the right syllables is challenging for me. Even as an adult, my mom used to give me advice, suggesting that I clap out the verses to hear the emphasis. I do use that method and also ask lots of other people to read my drafts to see how they stress different syllables.
What were your thoughts when you first saw the illustrations by Adriana Santos?
I was surprised to see the playful, cartoon-like drawings since I imagined the illustrations to be more lyrical. However, I instantly fell in love with the lively and adorable characters that Adriana created, including the pets!
Do you have any unique family traditions on Passover?
Most of our family’s Passover traditions revolve around food. My husband is the designated brisket chef, using his mom’s recipe. I enlist my kids to make charoset, form the matzoh balls and assemble the Seder plate. And, of course, we all look forward to digging into a dizzying array of traditional candies, kosher-for-Passover cakes and other sweets (can you see the Lollicones, Jelly Rings, chocolate-covered marshmallows and fruit slices?) at the end of the meal.
To learn more about Tracy and her books, please visit tracynewmanbooks.com