Ben and the Bishop

Judith Wein­shall Liber­man; Gail Davis, illus.

  • Review
By – July 17, 2018

This is the sto­ry of an 11-year-old boy, Ben, liv­ing in a ghet­to in the Rhineland dur­ing the Mid­dle Ages. Through his father’s work as a mer­chant, he meets the benev­o­lent bish­op who has invit­ed the Jews to live in a sep­a­rate, walled area of his town under his pro­tec­tion. Ben comes to know the bish­op and becomes his Hebrew teacher. He refus­es pay­ment for his efforts, as he feels the expe­ri­ence is reward enough. When the Jews of the town are threat­ened by a mob of cru­saders, the bish­op pro­tects them by brib­ing the mob with gold coins.

While based on his­tor­i­cal events, par­ents and teach­ers might not feel that bribery is a con­cept they wish to teach with­out con­text. Par­ents should be advised, there­fore, that the book’s end­ing may neces­si­tate fam­i­ly dis­cus­sion. Teach­ers and librar­i­ans should be pre­pared to intro­duce his­tor­i­cal and moral issues, as well.

This book is beau­ti­ful­ly illus­trat­ed. Each illus­tra­tion is like a paint­ing, and the author states in her ded­i­ca­tion that the faces of Ben and the bish­op are mod­eled after her grand­son and her uncle. The sto­ry is pre­sent­ed sim­ply, but its vocab­u­lary is advanced for a pic­ture book. Ear­ly read­ers will like­ly need help with the words.

Mindy Langer is a retired pedi­a­tri­cian and grand­moth­er of two. She vol­un­teers in numer­ous capac­i­ties for her syn­a­gogue and is vol­un­teer read­er of med­ical texts for Learn­ing Ally, a ser­vice that pro­vides record­ed books for stu­dents with print dis­abil­i­ties. She sings in a large com­mu­ni­ty choir and is an avid quil­ter. In choos­ing books for chil­dren she most enjoys those that are both chal­leng­ing and fun for the chil­dren as well as enter­tain­ing for the adults read­ing to them.

Discussion Questions