Ruthie and Her Ancestors is the story of a young girl who wants to know more about her family background. She is hoping to discover she is descended from a king — and is therefore a princess of sorts. Ruthie’s father begins to tell her the long story of where their family came from, starting with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Somewhere in the middle of the story of Joseph, Ruthie falls asleep. As she dreams, the history of the Jewish people continues to unfold. As the subtitle indicates, this is a “brief journey;” her dream skips through the many events, highlighting only a few. Ruthie meets King David, the slaves building the pyramids, and Moses as he prepares to climb the mountain. Ruthie chats with everyone she meets, trying to discover if any of them are her ancestors.
Time skips again, and Ruthie finds herself in Italy, where she discovers that the chief rabbi of Padua actually is one of her ancestors. We follow Ruthie as she meets a prince from Poland, who is visiting the rabbi. She follows the prince back to Poland. He takes on the rabbi’s son, Saul, as an advisor. When the king dies, Saul temporarily takes his place. This is where Ruthie wakes up, wondering if Saul is, indeed, one of her ancestors, thus fulfilling her wish to be a real princess.
Ruthie and Her Ancestors is a quick and somewhat scattered romp through parts of Jewish history. The text is quite long, making this a better option for an older picture-book audience of ages 5 – 8. Art in a soft color palette enhances the tale.
Marcia Berneger is a retired teacher who lives with her husband and three crazy dogs. She taught both first and second grade, as well as special education. She currently teaches Torah school, in addition to her volunteer work in classrooms, libraries, and with various fundraisers. She lives in San Diego.