Papa Jethro

Deb­o­rah Bod­in Cohen; Jane Dip­pold, illus.
  • Review
By – March 2, 2012
Deb­o­rah Bod­in Cohen’s Papa Jethro reminds read­ers that inter­faith fam­i­lies are not new. In this qui­et and engag­ing sto­ry, she avoids all sticky issues for a nar­ra­tive that empha­sizes love, con­tent­ment, and accep­tance. The sto­ry begins with a con­tem­po­rary rela­tion­ship. Grand­pa Nick and Rachel play games, paint and go to the park. Bod­in does not dal­ly before get­ting to the heart of her sto­ry. Rachel and Grand­pa Nick have just about every­thing in com­mon, except she goes to syn­a­gogue and he goes to church.” Soon after spend­ing the day play­ing games, Rachel asks the antic­i­pat­ed ques­tion, Why do I go to syn­a­gogue and you go to church?” Grand­pa Nick takes the oppor­tu­ni­ty to tell the Bib­li­cal sto­ry of Ger­shom, Moses’ son, and his Papa Jethro. Con­nec­tions are not sub­tle. Papa Jethro and Ger­shom, like Grand­pa Nick and Rachel, play games like tag and hide and seek. Both grand­pas hide can­dy in their pock­ets. Most impor­tant, faith does not cre­ate con­flict in their fam­i­lies. When Rachel asks, Why were they dif­fer­ent?” Grand­pa responds, Love is the answer to your ques­tion.” Even if love is not quite the answer to that par­tic­u­lar ques­tion, it is the over­rid­ing theme of the sto­ry, one that will res­onate with all inter­faith fam­i­lies. Cohen’s prose is extra sweet for young chil­dren; Jane Dippold’s water­col­ors reflect the gen­tle text. Papa Jethro is a good choice for young chil­dren who share Rachel’s ques­tions. Ages 4 – 8.
Sarah Aron­son holds an MFA in Writ­ing for Chil­dren and Young Adults from Ver­mont Col­lege. She is a full time writer and has recent­ly pub­lished her first nov­el, Head Case (Roar­ing Brook) for young adults. Sara blogs every Thurs­day for the Lilith blog.

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