This is part of a combined review for Max and Emma Cross the Red Sea: Torah Time Travel Book.
Easy-to-read language and colorful illustrations make these two time-travel adventure tales based on stories in the Torah excellent introductions to biblical characters. Protagonists Max and Emma use a home-made time machine to travel to ancient times, where they participate in events they have only learned about in Hebrew school.
In the first book, Max has little patience for his classmate Emma. When Max finds himself in Abraham and Sarah’s tent along with three mysterious strangers, he learns an important lesson about hospitality and about the proper way to greet and interact with strangers. When Max returns, he is kinder and more accepting of Emma, and the two start to become friends. A “Note for Families” is appended, summarizing and extending some of the lessons Max has learned during his time travel experience.
In the second story, Max and his family are preparing for the Passover seder, and Max develops a case of stage fright while contemplating singing the Four Questions. This time, his new friend, Emma, and her poodle, Kelev, accompany Max on his time machine adventure. They arrive at the Red Sea shortly before the Israelites are ready to plunge into the water in order to escape the Egyptians, who are chasing them and who hope to reinstate them as slaves. They meet Nachshon, the first of the Israelites to brave the sea before it splits, allowing them to pass in safety. Max learns some important lessons about bravery and that throughout history, public speaking has been a daunting task for many, including Moses. Another “Note to Families” appended to the second story encourages children to face and overcome their fears.
Both books are fun to read and help children and their families think about biblical stories in a new light, drawing attention to connections in their own lives, which will help them become kinder and more confident as they mature. Schools and parents will welcome this series as part of a larger conversation about Jewish and general values that affect children’s daily lives.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.