Everybody’s Book; The Story of the Sarajevo Haggadah by Linda Leopold Strauss Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge…

Everybody’s Book; The Story of the Sarajevo Haggadah by Linda Leopold Strauss; illustrated by Tim Smart; Kar-Ben Publishing/Lerner, 2024. 32 pages; $18.99 (hardcover); reading level: Grades 2-5.

This true story begins in 1350, when a stunningly beautiful haggadah (a book that narrates the Jewish passover along with other Bible stories) is presented to a Spanish couple. Following the Spanish Inquisition, the book is spirited away to Italy and then, in 1874, to the National Museum in Sarajevo, Bosnia, where it is cherished as a treasure by the Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Muslims who populate the city. Ensuring its survival becomes a mission shared by all these diverse groups over the decades to follow: In 1941, the Catholic museum director diverts the Nazis who come to steal it and the imam of a mosque hides it among some Islamic texts. In 1992, when war between Bosnia and Serbia breaks out, the Sarajevo Haggadah (as it came to be known) survives the bombing of the National Museum and is briefly brought out of hiding by the Muslim president of Bosnia for a Passover seder which includes Jewish, Christian Orthodox, Catholic, and Muslim religious leaders and is celebrated as war planes fly overhead. When the fighting ends, the United Nations donates money to restore the book that had become a symbol of “hope that kindness and understanding would be stronger than hate.” Smart’s illustrations depict serious historical events and capture the beauty of the haggadah, while remaining bright and child-friendly. Over six hundred years of history and an uplifting message are deftly packaged in these thirty-two pages. Truly a book for our day and time.

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge, Author

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