Until this year, there has been a shortage of stories about Ruth for preschool and primary grade children. Jean Marzollo’s Ruth and Naomi (Little Brown, 2005) is simpler and for slightly younger children than this more complete and more serious retelling of the biblical Book of Ruth by the award-winning author, Maxine Rose Schur. It begins with the journey of Elimelech and his family to Moab to escape famine in Judea and continues through the deaths of Naomi’s husband and sons to the pivotal point of the story when Naomi decides to return to her own land and Ruth makes her famous vow: “…wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people shall be my people, and your god, my God.” Departing from the biblical theme of chesed (lovingkindness), the strength of the two women, one young, one old, is emphasized as Ruth gleans in Boaz’s fields and Naomi arranges their marriage. The final words of the book are: “It is the story of Ruth and of Naomi who were blessed with the courage, the wisdom, and the might of women.” The pedestrian illustrations do not support this theme, unfortunately. The stiffness and lack of vigor of the illustrated characters are not mitigated by Schur’s usual writing skills; here, the narrative style is ordinary, lacking drama or lyricism. Neither physical nor spiritual strength is apparent, despite the author’s intent. A needed but disappointing book. For ages 6 – 8.
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).