The Passover Cowboy
The Passover Cowboy
By Barbara Diamond Goldin
Illustrated by Gina Capaldi
Jacketed hardcover, 32pp, $17.95
"Faster, faster," Jacob urged his pony, Rosa. He had to hurry now.
It was getting late, and Passover was starting tonight!
Until last year, Jacob and his family had lived in Russia, where he and his friends would run in and out of each other's homes, one house right next to the other. But now his family had moved to Argentina, and to Jacob, it seemed that friends were harder to find in this new land. Could his new friend Benito join them for the seder? Would he? Could a Passover meal here in Argentina — with cowboys, ponchos, chickens, and horses — feel like home, too?
About the Author
Barbara Diamond Goldin is the recipient of the Sydney Taylor Body-of-Work Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries. She has written many award-winning and distinguished books on Jewish themes, including The Best Hanukkah Ever, The World's Birthday: A Rosh Hashanah Story, and Cakes and Miracles: A Purim Tale. A former preschool teacher, language arts teacher, and writing instructor, Barbara is currently director of a public library and lives in Western Massachusetts.
About the Illustrator
Gina Capaldi is the illustrator of more than fifty books for children, many of them historically based. Her work is meticulously researched, detailed, and vibrant, and her books have been included on the recommended reading list from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Gina lives in Southern California. You can see more of her work at www.ginacapaldi.com.
Reviews for The Passover Cowboy
Category: Picture Books
"Russian Jews settle in Argentina—a little-known but timely fact.In Argentina, two pale-skinned boys are racing their horses. Benito, born in the country, is comfortably attired, while Jacob is still dressed in the too-tight clothing of the old country. It is just before the Jewish festival of Passover, and Jacob invites his new friend to the Seder, but Benito turns him down. Jacob returns home thinking about their lives in Russia, with houses so close by that neighbors visited frequently. At his house, his mother and sister are busy with the many delicious food preparations. Still, Jacob wishes Benito would come—opening the door for the prophet Elijah and other guests is part of the celebration. He is happy, though, to receive a very special gift from his mother: Argentinian clothing perfect for riding horses. When the door is opened, however, chaos follows as messy chickens invade their kitchen. Benito arrives just in time to help save the dinner and present his friend with a much-needed present, a lasso. Goldin's story is a warm-spirited tale of an immigrant family. An author's note explains the work of Baron Maurice de Hirsch, who sponsored Russian Jewish immigration to Argentina in the late 19th century. Capaldi's watercolor illustrations fill the pages with action and personality. A Seder and cowboy clothes are beautifully woven together."
"A wonderfully entertaining picture book for young readers with a comforting insightful message, The Passover Cowboy is enthusiastically and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children."
The Midwest Book Review
"This story unfolds not in the American west but in Argentina during the early 20th century. Jacob and his family have emigrated from a Russian shtetl to a farm in the pampas, where he befriends Benito, a young gaucho. The story that ensues is typical for this minigenre: Jacob invites Benito to his family’s Passover seder, but receives an equivocal response; a mild, semicomic calamity erupts at the moment of Elijah’s “arrival,” which is expertly resolved by Benito, who has decided to attend (“You know, we struggled for our freedom, too, here in Argentina,” he notes). Goldin’s (Cakes and Miracles) earnest writing propels the action, but it’s Capaldi’s (Red Bird Sings) sun-infused watercolors that make the story sing. She lyrically evokes the sense of new possibilities on the wide-open Argentinian plains, the exhilaration of feeling safe and free, and the coming together of two different cultures."
"Jacob and his family have relocated from Russia to Argentina. But life here is an adjustment: “He thought of how he missed his friends in Russia. How they would run in and out of each other’s houses, one house right next to the other. It was very different here where everything was so far apart.” At Passover, he invites his new friend Benito to his Seder and hopes he will attend, but isn’t sure if he will. During the dinner, Benito arrives: “I wanted to see what this celebration of freedom was all about,” said Benito. “You know, we struggled for our freedom, too, here in Argentina.” Finely appointed, lush watercolor illustrations of the characters and Argentine landscape give vibrancy to this well-paced story of tradition, family and friendship punctuated with humor and warmth."
The Washington Post
"From the acclaimed Jewish children’s book writer Barbara Diamond Goldin (“The Best Hanukkah Ever,” “Journeys With Elijah”) comes an unlikely Passover story set in the Argentine countryside in the late 1800s. Jacob is a young Jewish boy whose Russian family immigrated to Argentina, but he doesn’t quite fit in. He makes a new friend, Benito, who helps him learn to ride horseback. Jacob works up the courage to invite his non-Jewish pal to his family’s seder, but Benito says he has farm chores to do. But Benito ends up coming after all, at just the right moment: when Jacob opens the door to welcome Elijah, just as a flock of chickens arrive, too. Benito helps round up the chickens and joins the seder.
As the family welcomes its new friend, they learn from each other about the meaning of freedom — and Jacob’s mother and Benito also surprise him with a lasso and clothing he needs for an upcoming rodeo. Artist Gina Capaldi puts readers right in the action; kids will feel as if they are riding along on horseback with Jacob and Benito, and they’ll feel part of the family’s seder. An author’s note explains that in the 1880s, Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe arrived in Argentina. Goldin also poses a timely discussion question that asks families to imagine what it would be like to move to a new country."
Jewish Telegraphic Agency