Ellen G. Cole, a retired 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.
“You can’t tell a book by its cover” certainly applies here. While packaging heralds junior high school ‘necessary-but-dull home work assignment tool,’ the contents are far from it. Author Louise Slavicek delivers an excellent, sophisticated, and consistently interesting chronological account of the biblical King for high school students. The author introduces one of Tanach’s most colorful characters, parses his world and explains his era’s music, sling shots, height measurements, other bible heroes and burial methods for a hated enemy in the Middle East. The slim book is concise. Short chapters with subdivisions keep details fresh rather than numbing; the reader is free to absorb and analyze facts. Slavicek celebrates David’s faith, charm and ability to lead, but does not hide his ambitions, cruelty or paternal prejudices. David is an outsized celebrity who takes full responsibility for his acts, good or bad, thus providing a powerful role model for today’s children. Important to David’s character is his unwavering faith, his passion for God’s forgiveness, even when his acts are illegal, unethical or decidedly non-regal. The strong vocabulary is defined on the spot. The opening essay on leadership by a major historian is philosophically daunting and helps peg this book for high school and above. A few disappointments: the map does not include many cities cited in the action. The illustrations are classical paintings, but none are named, no artist noted; instead credit goes to the museum sending the photograph. Quibbles aside, this non-fiction for older children is based on a platinum adult bibliography containing the latest David research. He was antiquity’s man to know; by reading this book you know him better. For ages 14 and up.
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