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The Shadow of a Flying Bird

The Shadow of a Flying Bird

by Mordicai Gerstein

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
This book is Gerstein's adaptation of a Kurdistani tale. It's a lovely, poetic tale of how even Moses does not want to die when God tells him that it is time. The mountains, sea, sun, moon and stars will not help him live. Death must come to all. When Moses' soul is finally with God, though, he and God's messengers and angels rejoice, for Moses will be with God always. An affirmation of life, and an acceptance of death.
School Library Journal
Gr 2 Up-When God tells Moses that his time on earth has ended, Moses protests that his 120 years "`seem like one short day.'" God answers that even the longest span speeds by. But Moses does not accept death until the very mountains, the sun, and the stars assure him that their time too will come. Then Moses submits, and God Himself descends to take his soul. Now He also weeps, saying "`Who will oppose evildoers? Who will speak for me and love me as Moses did? And whom will I love as well?'" Then the angels and souls in heaven comfort Him, asserting that "`in death as in life, Moses is yours.'" This moving and brilliant example of midrash combines the universal experience of revulsion at mortality, and the healing moment of acceptance, with a sense of the greatness of a Western culture-hero, Moses, and the Jewish tradition of intimate yet respectful relations with God. The oil on vellum illustrations, dominated by shades of blue and amber, recall the naivet of medieval manuscripts, but also convey both the transcendence of God and His immanence, as He touches the earth and even Moses's lips. It would be a pity if this simple but profound book, richer than Gerstein's The Mountains of Tibet (HarperCollins, 1987), sat ignored on the religion shelf. Its wisdom and beauty lift it far above the sectarian.-Patricia Dooley (Green), St. George's School, Newport, RI
Ilene Cooper
A moving fable that incorporates the Jewish concept of struggling with God. Moses has lived his allotted time, but he is not yet ready to die, despite God's call. Although he eloquently pleads for more time--"Turn me into a tiny butterfly, only let me live"--God refuses to extend his life, sending the archangels to fetch Moses' soul, but they are too sorrowful to perform the task; only the angel of death takes on the assignment with relish, but Moses smites him. So the Lord Himself descends to Earth to take Moses' soul with a kiss; yet afterward, He experiences almost unbearable sadness. He has lived up to His own rules, but He has lost the human closest to Him. The Chagall-like paintings, featuring cabalistic symbolism and heavenly colors, are full of magic. Younger children probably will not understand either the story or the art in a conventional manner, but they will intuit the themes of love, loss, and humanity's mysterious relationship with God. The best audience for this, however, may be older children who will be able to talk about many of the poignant issues the story raises.

Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
7.77(w) x 10.80(h) x 0.38(d)
Age Range:
6 - 9 Years

Brief Biography

Northhampton, Massachusetts
Date of Birth:
November 25, 1935
Place of Birth:
Los Angeles, California
Chouinard Institute of Art

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