Acclaimed Israeli author Meir Shalev (who writes books for both adults and children) turns his considerable talents to ensuring that this collection of Bible stories appeals to children. As he writes in a note at the front of the book, “Imagine that some of you think that Bible stories are just what you learn in school and in synagogue. But if so, you are missing out.”
Shalev then proceeds to share six of his favorite stories: the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Ark, the Tower of Babel, Abraham and Sarah, Joseph and his Brothers, and Moses in the River. Shalev presents them in a straightforward, conversational, accessible-to-all narration. God especially is accessible here —intimate rather than intimidating, prone to being weary and frustrated, and sometimes even surprised by his creation. At one point, as the Tower of Babel grows higher and higher into the heavens, God tells his angels, “I’m starting to think that [humans are] capable of quite a lot.” This is definitely a God with a personality young children will understand.
Luzzati’s illustrations are absolutely wonderful and deserve special attention. The pictures are richly colored and textured as well as full of action and humor. They depict humans in all their flawed and familiar glory, showing both their strengths and follies. God’s love for these humans is certain. The art is perfectly suited to the young audience.
Unfortunately, not everyone’s favorite Bible stories could have been included in this highly recommended collection that definitely leaves the reader wanting more. Still, at the close of the Joseph chapter, which ends with Joseph’s sale to the Midianites (and doesn’t finish the long arc of Joseph’s story), Shalev writes, “But that is another story, for another time.” Perhaps that means we can look forward to a second volume.
Leslie Kimmelman grew up outside Philadelphia and graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont. She is the author of many children’s books, awards for which include Best Children’s Books of the Year from the Bank Street College of Education; Notable Children’s Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies; and Sydney Taylor Notable Books. Kimmelman is an editor at Sesame Workshop and lives with her family just north of New York City.