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.
Stories of Heaven and Earth: Bible Heroes in Contemporary Children’s Literature
Linda R. Silver is a specialist in Jewish children’s literature. She is editor of the Association of Jewish Libraries’ Jewish Valuesfinder, www.ajljewishvalues.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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