Private Joel and the Sewell Mountain Seder

  • Interest Level: Grade 3 - Grade 5   ·  
  • Reading Level: Grade 4

With permission from their commander and matzah brought in on a train from Cincinnati, Jewish members of a Civil War regiment improvise a seder to remember. The participation of three former slaves, now members of their company, lends a special meaning to this celebration of freedom.

Format Your Price
Interest Level Grade 3 - Grade 5
Reading Level Grade 4
Genre Fiction
Copyright 2008
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Kar-Ben Publishing ®
Language English
Number of Pages 48
Publication Date 2008-01-01
Reading Counts! Level 4.8
Reading Counts! Points 3.0
BISACS JUV017120, JUV033020, JUV017090
Dewey [Fic]
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Lexile 800
Guided Reading Level R
ATOS Reading Level 4.8
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 122692
Accelerated Reader® Points 0.5
Features Reviewed


AJL Newsletter

“Attractive, heavily-textured, full-color paintings adorn the story, written in a light, lively style and divided into short chapters. . . Private Joel and the Sewell Mountain Seder is an excellent addition to the genre.” —AJL Newsletter


“Costello’s impressionistic artwork seems well suited to this nostalgic story. Although respectful in tone, the illustrations also pick up on occasional humor, as when hungry soldiers swallow too much bitter herb and chase it down with very potent cider. A good choice for the holiday shelf or Judaica collections.” —Booklist

Jewish Book World

“[The seder scene] reaps the benefits of the author’s extensive research, and does a remarkable job of making the experience come alive for the reader. The painted illustrations add just the right amount of drama to the story.”

Library Media Connection

In this story, Jewish soldiers in the 23rd regiment of the Union Army requested to be allowed to celebrate Passover during the Civil War. Working together and improvising when traditional ingredients were not available, the men put together a traditional feast and spent the evening sharing stories and prayers. The commander of the regiment, along with some African American soldiers, also attended the celebration. This story was based on actual events from the Civil War, and gives a personal connection to some of the men who served. Collections needing addi-tional perspective on the Civil War should consider this title for its unusual story and message of cooperation.

School Library Journal

“Costello’s vibrant paintings blend realistic and abstract styles, filling the spreads with color.” —School Library Journal

The Horn Book Guide

Illustrated by Shawn Costello.seder with some help from farmers, a traveling man, and memories of previous celebra-tions. The invented dialogue is stilted, but the subject is intriguing and the heavily illustrated chapter book format makes it accessible to a young audience. An author’s note provides historical context.

Illustrator: Shawn Costello