Here’s a fresh bible story for the just graduating from picture books crowd. Age appropriate hip language and the cult of celebrity deliver the scoop in a first hand, personalized tell-all. Daniel’s diary speaks directly about more than his escapade in the lions’ den, the dramatic incident on which picture books focus. Young readers learn the royal politics of Babylonian exile as written in the first half of the Book of Daniel, although, make sure to note that this version is based on a Christian bible. This story accurately agrees with the Tanakh, but the order of some events are changed to make vignettes clear about location, characters and motives. Daniel’s diary explains his experience in administrative terms. He rises to power through honesty and dream interpretation. He discloses his friends’— Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego — escape from the fiery furnace. He works for three Kings, with co-workers, then promoted, above them. Envious cohorts devise a decree to get rid of Daniel whose crime is praying to God, not men. The tolerant King Darius, who accepts Daniel’s kosher habits, does not want to do this, but must obey his own laws. God’s angel saves Daniel and the happy king writes a new law. The breezy text adds annoying nicknames and names characters unnamed in the Hebrew Bible. The layout is enticing: the font, youthful; the illustrations, cute bordering on cartoon, but they deliver the message. Readers will chew over concepts of God, prayer and loyalty after reading this funny book where wild beasts and hateful men do not chew up our Daniel! For ages 8 – 10.
Ellen G. Cole, the librarian of the Levine Library of Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, is a past judge of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards and a past chairperson of that committee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excellence in Jewish Children’s Literature. Ellen is the recipient of two major awards for contribution to Judaic Librarianship, the Fanny Goldstein Merit Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroeder Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries of Southern California. She is on the board of AJLSC.