The Passover Mouse


In this charming and witty Passover story, a little mouse disrupts a town’s preparations for the holiday when it steals a piece of leavened bread, or chometz, just as all the houses have been cleaned in time for the holiday. The mouse tears through the town with the chometz, spoiling everyone’s hard work. But just when it seems as if the townsfolk will never be ready for their Seder, the little mouse’s actions unwittingly bring everyone together, to work as a group to save the holiday.

An afterword discusses the story from the Talmud that the author used as her inspiration and includes a glossary of terms that will be useful to young readers.

Behind the Book

“I was researching another book that I was writing at the time when I came across a passage in the Talmud in which the rabbis discussed the possibility of a mouse bringing bread into a house that had already been searched for chometz, leavened bread. The rabbis went around and around whether the house had to be searched again, but in the end, the question was undecided. I knew I had to come up with an answer, and I immediately imagined a troublesome mouse running amok through a Jewish village in the midst of Passover preparations.”

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Reviews


This animal story may help explain why Jews became known as the People of the Book: Even the holiest books might include jokes or fables or riddles.
This picture book, arguably, includes all three. It’s a very silly story about a very serious problem. Wieder explains that, when they’re preparing for the holiday of Passover, observant Jews are required “to remove all leavened food, or chometz—down to the last bread crumb!” Fastidious Jews are never certain when it’s safe to stop searching. The Babylonian Talmud addressed the issue with a sort of brainteaser, paraphrased in the author’s note at the end of this book: “The Jewish sages discussed the possibility of mice bringing chometz into a house that had already been searched for it.” Kober takes the passage as an opportunity to paint utterly adorable mice with heads shaped like apostrophes. (He also finds a surprising variety of shades in the skin tones of the human Jewish villagers.) And the author not only works in a chase scene, with townspeople and a cat, but somehow makes a quote from the Talmud seem like a punchline. The endless arguments about cats and mice concludes with: “…This question is not decided.” But the story ends on a touching note, as the whole village joins together in a last-minute search for breadcrumbs.

A book that fits moving scenes, puzzles, and mice into the same story is an excellent addition to the Jewish tradition. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-7)

—Kirkus Reviews, starred review


A lonely widow, Rivka, has spent weeks, as have all of the other villagers, getting ready for Passover. One of their most important tasks is to rid their homes of leavened bread, referred to as ​“chometz.” The final search for chometz is undertaken on the evening before Passover begins. Only when they are sure not a bit of chometz remains, can they begin cooking the Seder meal. But this normal routine is upended when a mouse — and then two mice and a cat! — are seen running in and out of the villagers’ homes with bits of bread in their mouths. Have their chometz-free homes been contaminated? If the search for chometz has to be repeated, how will the villagers ever complete all of the other preparations in time for Passover?

What may be surprising about this amusing story is that it is based on an actual passage from the Talmud. This very situation about a mouse seen with a bit of chometz before Passover was debated by the rabbis! And, although there is no definitive answer in the Talmud about whether or not a new search for chometz is necessary, the village rabbi in this story decrees that a new search is needed. The only possible way to accomplish this and still finish all the preparations in time for Passover is for everyone to work together. So, on this Passover, even one more thing is different than a regular day. This year, Rivka celebrates the holiday with her neighbors and is no longer all alone.

The brightly colored and expressive illustrations are an energetic match for the lively story. An author’s note provides more information on the chometz debate and the book includes a glossary of terms.

— Susan Kantor

—Jewish Book Council


This clever story, inspired by a discussion in the Talmud, celebrates community and friendship. Lonely Rivka is busily cleaning her house of bread and preparing for Passover, when a mouse appears and grabs a piece of bread from the pile. Now there might be bread missed in her house! The mouse runs into another house, and soon there are two mice and a cat unaccounted for, and a lot of unhappy people who might need to re-clean their houses. After consulting with the rabbi, they prepare to re-clean, but it is so much work. The rabbi’s son convinces the villagers to pitch in. Ultimately, instead of being alone, Rivka makes her Passover meal for a houseful of helpful guests, and everyone is happy. The clear text has a folkloric feel, seamlessly including facts about the holiday and a repetitive refrain that encourages participation. The message of kindness and generous giving, as the characters move from anger to friendship, is both ancient and relevant today. The art has a rustic, old-fashioned look, despite the cartoon characters. The town is full of small, wood buildings, and the largely brown-and-green coloring is slightly splotchy, as if done with wood block or paint on wood. The women are clothed in dresses and kerchiefs, and the mice and cat are mischievously appealing. The whole comes together beautifully, celebrating the Passover spirit in an appealing package.VERDICT A welcome addition to any library serving Jewish patrons.

– Amy Lilien-Harper, Wilton Library, CT

—School Library Journal


Rivka’s preparations for the Passover season are nearly complete—she has cleaned, swept, and gathered the last bit of leavened food, or chometz. In accordance with tradition, she has piled the remaining chometz on the table to be burned in the morning; but the next day, upon waking, she’s horrified to discover a mouse happily snacking on the baked goods. She shoos him from the dwelling, but the mouse heads for another nearby house, still armed with his snack. The neighbors are also horrified—the mouse will track in chometz and undo weeks of hard work! As the high jinx continue, the entire village is thrown into chaos until the people come together to avert this near-disaster. The heartwarming and humorous story, based on a passage in the Talmud, is accompanied by cheerful illustrations that bring the village and its residents to life. Jewish readers will recognize familiar concepts, non-Jewish children will receive a delightful introduction to the Passover season, and all readers will learn the beauty of community and compassion.

— Emily Graham

—Booklist


Mice are no strangers to Passover picture books, but they’re usually anthropomorphized seder participants; here, a mouse is just a mouse. In a small village, a widow named Rivka prepares for Passover by scrubbing her home from top to bottom and rooting out any leavened food—which is forbidden to those who strictly observe the holiday. Just when it looks like all the holiday housekeeping is done, a mouse finds a bit of bread and scampers across the village with it, setting off a chain reaction that may require the stringent cleaning to begin all over again. Although the premise may strike many readers as esoteric (it’s based on a passage from the Talmud, the ancient commentary on Jewish law), Wieder’s brisk prose—punctuated by the refrain “A mouse! A mouse! Brought bread into our house!” — and Kober’s warmhearted cartooning successfully turn the story into one of community cooperation and celebration. There’s good news for the mouse, too: Rivka leaves a plate of matzo outside the little rodent’s home in the wall. “On this night,” she says, “even a thief shouldn’t go to bed hungry!”

Ages 3-7

—Publishers Weekly

Copyright © 2019 Joy Nelkin Wieder