In K. Marcus’s picture book FRANKENSTEIN’S MATZAH: A PASSOVER PARODY (Intergalactic Afikomen, 2024), illustrated by Sam Loman, a youngster named Vee uses science to bring a matzah to life for the school science fair. With a fun graphic comic-style format, featuring engaging science experiments, FRANKENSTEIN’S MATZAH is a fun and unique Passover read.
FRANKENSTEIN’S MATZAH is a nod to Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. What inspired you to combine elements of this classic story with the Jewish celebration of Passover?
I am always thinking about ways to make my manuscripts unique by including different layers. When I wrote my first draft, it was just after Passover so that was on my mind. I’m not sure where I came up with the Frankenstein mash up but when I thought about combining them, I realized the two stories melded well. I always wanted to write this as a funny story and I wonder if watching Abbott and Costello meets Frankenstein as a kid had anything to do with that.
Vee uses science and turns matzah to life, creating Manny the Manztah for the school science fair. Have you ever participated in a science fair?
No I didn’t. But I did help my children a lot when they had science presentations in school. I think I enjoyed them more than my children did!! I love science and scientists – I think they are so amazing and creative. I definitely wanted to highlight them in my book.
The book includes interactive, educational Passover-themed science experiments that encourage readers to include during their own seder. How did you decide to include these? Can you share a bit about the science experiments you included in the book?
Actually, the science experiments weren’t in the first draft. I had a great editor and she suggested I add them in because Vee, the main character, was first and foremost a scientist even during the seder! And because there was a younger sibling, it seemed organic to have Vee do the experiments with him. We were also working on pacing and moving scenes around and they fit in well with the story structure at that point.
I wanted experiments that would use materials found in the home and during a seder – I didn’t want to create something that would be difficult for readers to do. The Floating Egg Experiment is about water density and uses salt, water, and an egg. Parting the Red Sea is about surface tension and uses pepper, water, and a drop of dish soap. The experiments align with K-3 science curriculum too.
The format has a comic, graphic novel feel. Was this your idea for the initial manuscript? What were your thoughts when you first saw Sam Loman’s illustrations?
I love reading comics and graphic novels! Originally I had written this as a standard picture book but it is dialogue heavy and I thought it would be a good fit as a graphic picture book (my name for the format). I then researched how to write in this style and found out that they are written as a script. Unfortunately there was no industry script standard so I read a bunch of different scripts and made it up as I went along. I have to shout out children’s book author Tara Lazar because a while ago she had written a blog post called Art Notes in Picture Book Manuscripts: The Grid Format Solution which had stuck in the back of my mind so when I submitted to the publisher, I sent it as a script and in the grid format because sometimes a script can be hard to visualize because there are breaks for panel and scene descriptions.
I thought Sam Loman added her own twist and captured the characters perfectly! I think they are adorable and incredibly expressive. And best of all, Eggs the cat looks like one of my cats named Buttercup!
What do you hope readers will take away from Vee and FRANKENSTEIN’S MATZAH?
My first hope is that the takeaway will be don’t give up! Vee failed 1,817 times! But they kept going! Failure is a big part of science and a lot of other things too and it is nothing to be ashamed about. This is how we learn. I also hope readers will takeaway that Vee lives their life being true to who they are.
Thank you, K.!
K. Marcus reads anything and everything. She follows her curiosity wherever it leads, loves to ask questions, and spends hours researching the answers. Frankenstein’s Matzah is her debut picture book. Find more info on kmarcuswrites.com