Children are often taught stories from the Bible as midrashim. These tales can be presented in an engaging yet simple manner, allowing their built-in lessons to shine through. Occasionally thoughts, comments, and events are added in an attempt to bring the stories to life, with the result that they are often long-remembered. But there can be a drawback to this method of learning. Children don’t always distinguish between the original stories told in the Torah and these more colorful, memorable versions. This book and its unusual approach eliminates that problem. It explains the concept and uses of midrash while relating the stories in a relatable and interesting way.
The authors share twenty tales, each clearly and memorably told. In introductory sections, the authors explainmidrash in a way that children can understand, allowing them easy access to the deeper, richer versions of the stories to come and eliminating any possible confusion. The story of Adam and Eve, their encounter with the Serpent, and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden receives a poignant rendering; Noah and his relationship with his grandson as they look toward the future feels endearingly optimistic; and Abraham’s smashing of his father’s idols is nuanced and complex. Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Joseph, Benjamin, Moses, Aaron, Miriam, and others make appearances in ways that both educate and entertain. Not only that,the text appears alongside black and white line drawings that enhance understanding and clarity.
With this book, children learn that there is more than one way to tell a good story and have its lessons stick. They begin to understand the usefulness of learning about the Bible through midrashim in addition to the traditional approach of reading directly from its pages.
A useful discussion guide concludes the text, homing in on Jewish values and questions for further thought and discussion. There is also an index that ties each story back to its original Torah source.
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.