Author: Laurel Snyder
Illustrator: Catia Chien
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade Books
Audience: Ages 4-8
Summary: This book tells the Exodus story through the eyes of a small Jewish girl.
Literary elements at work in the story: The Longest Night is plot-driven, with all the events of the plagues and the Passover told in rhyming couplets. However, the more important literary element in the story is point of view. This is a first-person tale told by a child. Although we never learn the narrator’s name, we read about the Jews’ life of slavery, fears, and eventual joy through this young girl’s unique voice.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? The young narrator refers occasionally to “our masters,” but the reasons for the difference in status are not examined here. Instead, she is more concerned with her immediate family – a mother, father, and older sister – and with her community, the enslaved Jews of Egypt.
Theological Conversation Partners: Laurel Snyder states in an author’s note at the beginning of this story that this book is her response to her childhood yearning to hear more about the people of Israel during Seders that focused exclusively on Moses and Pharaoh. She accomplishes this goal of identifying with the everyday lives of the Hebrew slaves. However, it is puzzling that in a book about one of the most crucial events in Jewish and Christian history, the God of Israel is never mentioned. The narrator comments once that her father seems to wait calmly for each new plague, and she responds by praying herself, but the overall narration seems to be more concerned with a child’s fears about inexplicable happenings in her family’s life. The book would still be a good one to use in conjunction with studies of Moses, the Passover, and the escape from Egypt. Since the connection to God’s plan for the Hebrews is not made explicitly, the story might provide a particularly good jumping-off point for children to make those associations themselves.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Which story from the Bible does The Longest Night remind you of?
- Why do you think that the young girl who tells the story seems frightened of all the strange things which are happening?
- If you could talk to her, what might you say to reassure her?
- On one page, the little girl tells us that her family was “running from, but also to.” Where were they running from and running to?
- Why were the little girl and her family so happy at the end of the story?
This review is written by Beth Lyon-Suhring.