In his introduction to this unusual picture book, Podwal (A Book of Hebrew Letters; A Jewish Bestiary) states that ``Ten appears...so frequently in the holy scriptures that the story of the Bible can almost be retold by means of its citings.'' He demonstrates this thesis by presenting biblical stories and incidents in which the number 10 predominates. From the creation of the world (10 words were used) to the 10 curses inflicted on Adam and Eve to the 10 righteous men who could have saved the city of Sodom, the text covers a wide expanse of biblical history. The book is esthetically very pleasing. On each page striking watercolors-some realistic, many dramatically abstract-illustrate a brief example (i.e., ``10 tribes were lost in exile'') which a column of text elucidates. Some of the stories are familiar (Joseph and the coat of many colors, Adam and Eve, the parting of the Red Sea) while others are less so (``10 people went to live in Heaven without having died'') and many intriguing details will likely be new to readers. Sometimes material seems to be lacking-what were Eve's other curses? why list only Adam's? what were the 10 words that created the world?-but for the most part this is a handsome, thoughtful and intelligent work. All ages. (Aug.)
- Judy Silverman
The number ten is important in many facets of Jewish history, religion, and custom-ten people in a minyan, ten sages martyred by Rome, ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, for example-and the number ten symbolizes perfection and completeness. With a total of twenty-two instances of the use of "ten", Mark Podwal makes this book comes full circle, beginning and ending with the fact that with ten words God can create a world. In his introduction, Podwal cites many more instances of Ten than he has room to illustrate, making the reader hungry for more. The illustrations are beautiful. The book is fascinating, and not just for observant Jews.
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up-An attractive and intriguing introduction to Jewish tradition and Biblical history. Using a rather static layout that curiously lends itself to the formality of Talmudic discussion and interpretation, Podwal leads readers through numerous instances of the use of the number 10 in the Old Testament, in the Talmud, and in Jewish mystical tradition. Sometimes he describes all 10 of something, e.g., the generations between Adam and Noah, and sometimes he gives only a partial list, allowing youngsters to discover the remaining information on their own, which makes the book a useful tool for Hebrew school teachers. Generous white space and gouache-and-ink paintings make the volume appealing for family use as well; libraries in communities with many Jewish patrons will want to add it to their collections.-Sharon Grover, Arlington County Department of Libraries, VA
Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet stands for a number. The letter "yod", which represents the number 10, is the first letter of God's name. The esteem accorded the number 10 comes into play repeatedly in Jewish law and lore and is the inspired theme around which Podwal spotlights episodes in the history of the Jewish people. Dramatically simple gouache-and-ink paintings depict such scenes as the downfall of Sodom, along with the phrase "10 righteous men could have saved Sodom from destruction." Running vertically along the far side of the page is a brief, gracefully flowing elaboration of the biblical account of Abraham's bargaining with God to save the sinful city. Podwal also offers the story of Daniel's surviving in the den with 10 lions; tells of King David's harp having 10 strings; and relates how God created the world with 10 words. With its attractive format, this picture book for older readers welcomes readers to an innovative approach to the Bible and Jewish history.