Margaret Hodges and Barry Moser’s new book is a stately, dignified presentation of highlights from the life of the great leader of the Hebrew people. The 9” X 12” cover shows Moses as a mature shepherd, draped in desert clothing, holding a lamb and grasping his staff against a black background. The stasis of this illustration is typical of Moser’s handsome artwork in this book. Unfortunately, it does not contribute to making the dignified and restrained narrative very exciting. The life of Moses as the Torah narrates it, is a story of an intense, dynamic man, who hated injustice, and who, with all his faults, was chosen to hear the voice of God, and lead the Hebrews out of bondage. His life and death provide rich material. However, turning this into an involving narrative is rare, evidenced by the few picture books about Moses. (An exception is Mordecai Gerstein’s Shadow of a Flying Bird.) Though there is no fault with this well-made book, there is no fire. It is about Moses, but does not seem to be our Moses, Moshe Rabeinu, for whom Jews feel warmth, and closeness. Jewish readers will appreciate the beauty of the illustrations more than the text. For ages 7 – 12.
Naomi Morse managed a public library children’s room in Montgomery County, Maryland for many years, and then worked as head librarian at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School Lower School in Rockville, Maryland. She has served on AJL’s Sydney Taylor Committee, and last year (2008) was a member of ALA’s Caldecott Committee. She is an independent book reviewer.