Sto­ries of Heav­en and Earth: Bible Heroes in Con­tem­po­rary Chil­dren’s Literature

Hara E. Per­son and Diane G. Person

  • Review
By – July 30, 2012

Seri­ous crit­i­cism in the field of Jew­ish children’s lit­er­a­ture is so rare that when it appears, it is note­wor­thy. Rab­bi Hara E. Per­son is the Edi­tor-in-Chief of URJ Press. Diane G. Per­son, her moth­er, is a children’s librar­i­an, edi­tor, and author. Thus, their cre­den­tials for writ­ing a book like this one are good. Regard­ing mod­ern Bible sto­ries writ­ten for chil­dren in the con­text of world lit­er­a­ture, instead of from a strict­ly Jew­ish or any oth­er reli­gious view­point, the authors approach the bib­li­cal accounts of Cre­ation (Adam and Eve), Noah, Joseph, Moses, David, Jon­ah, and Esther in psy­cho­log­i­cal, devel­op­men­tal, eth­i­cal, and lit­er­ary terms, com­par­ing and con­trast­ing var­i­ous retellings, com­ment­ing on their depar­ture from or sim­i­lar­i­ty to the bib­li­cal text. The insights of Bruno Bet­tel­heim, Joseph Camp­bell, Jean Piaget, and Erik Erik­son pro­vide an intel­lec­tu­al frame­work for the Per­sons’ work, which places Bible sto­ries with­in a folklore/​mythology par­a­digm. Most of the lit­er­a­ture dis­cussed is in pic­ture book form and because there are very few illus­tra­tions repro­duced — and those only in black and white — the least suc­cess­ful part of Sto­ries of Heav­en and Earth is in its abil­i­ty to con­vey artis­tic inter­pre­ta­tions. How­ev­er, many read­ers will be famil­iar with the books cit­ed because they are well-known and wide­ly avail­able, cre­at­ed by Miri­am Chaikin, Bar­bara Cohen, Leonard Everett Fish­er, Patri­cia and Fredrick McKis­sack, Ger­ald McDer­mott, Jer­ry Pinkney, and Bri­an Wild­smith to name a few of the authors and illus­tra­tors whose inter­pre­ta­tions are dis­cussed. An exten­sive bib­li­og­ra­phy, an index of books of the Bible, and a gen­er­al index are append­ed. High­ly recommended.

Lin­da R. Sil­ver is a spe­cial­ist in Jew­ish children’s lit­er­a­ture. She is edi­tor of the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries’ Jew­ish Val­ues­find­er, www​.ajl​jew​ish​val​ues​.org, and author of Best Jew­ish Books for Chil­dren and Teens: A JPS Guide (The Jew­ish Pub­li­ca­tion Soci­ety, 2010) and The Jew­ish Val­ues Find­er: A Guide to Val­ues in Jew­ish Children’s Lit­er­a­ture (Neal-Schu­man, 2008).

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