Long ago in a part of the world once known as Mesopotamia, a nomadic tribesman led his people through the wilderness in search of a mystical land called Canaan. This journey would change the course of human history. Since that time, entire civilizations have flourished and vanished, along with their religions. Only one people has survived the tumult of the centuries--the Jews. What accounts for their remarkable survival? Neil Waldman tells the story of the Jewish people from their arrival in Canaan to the Exodus...
Long ago in a part of the world once known as Mesopotamia, a nomadic tribesman led his people through the wilderness in search of a mystical land called Canaan. This journey would change the course of human history. Since that time, entire civilizations have flourished and vanished, along with their religions. Only one people has survived the tumult of the centuries--the Jews. What accounts for their remarkable survival? Neil Waldman tells the story of the Jewish people from their arrival in Canaan to the Exodus from Egypt. His paintings capture emotional scenes of Jewish life in the ancient world and in Europe. He shows how generation upon generation of Jews, in the face of profound crisis, have drawn strength from God's promise of a land flowing with milk and honey. The key to the Jewish people's survival is found in the story of their birth.
A dramatic vertical format (7U" 13/"), gold lettering on the jacket, gold borders within and abundant illustrations in Waldman's (The Golden City: Jerusalem's Three Thousand Years) reverent, contemporary style signal a gift book; this title is more impressive for its visual impact than for its text. Waldman links the survival of the Jewish people to Jewish faith in God's biblical promise of a land of milk and honey. He begins with Abram's journey to Canaan (identifying Abram as "a good and decent nomadic tribesman [who] was visited by God"), then asserts, "A profound connection is forged that will endure for thousands of years. It is the relationship of a wandering desert people to a cherished piece of fertile soil, a land that will come to represent their hopes, dreams, and aspirations." The text frequently demands a lot from young readers (even when Waldman later names Abram as the first Jew, he doesn't explain why), but elsewhere makes simplistic arguments, particularly in his monolithic descriptions of Judaism ("Their religion has remained intact since the days of Baal, Zeus, Cleopatra, and the pyramids"). The watercolors, on the other hand, are consistently moving. In strikingly lit desert colors the artist evokes the Jews of Moses' day, and he darkens his palette to intersperse images of other Jews far from a homeland-Eastern European cheder boys; an old man with a yellow star on his coat; a contemporary man holding a Torah scroll. When Waldman finally shows "the sacred soil of Canaan" (he doesn't name Israel), his work is subtle: the land is green but open, suggesting harvests yet to come. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-In this beautifully written but rather obscure book, Waldman covers the history of the Jewish people from the time of Abraham through Moses leading his people to Mt. Nebo and Joshua leading them into Canaan. The writing is lyrical and lovely; however, it is likely to be over the comprehension level of its intended audience, as the author uses such words as "immutable" and "amalgam." The book also requires a certain amount of familiarity with Jewish history, for Waldman refers to children reading the Torah in the ghettos without explanation, and alludes to the Diaspora without going into detail past the Exodus story. The story ends abruptly after the arrival in Canaan, leaving readers wanting further information. The design is attractive, with a gilt border of leaves and a Hebrew phrase running along the top of each page, boxes of Hebrew lettering on small painted backgrounds, and a map of the area on the contents page. The illustrations are uneven, but for the most part they are lovely, with inserts at the start of each chapter that include stylized Egyptians, landscapes, and snakes, as well as full-page paintings that depict such scenes as the burning bush, the Jews traveling through the desert, and Moses holding up the tablets. Unfortunately, the complexity of the language and minimal background make the audience unclear and the book somewhat inaccessible. However, middle school and religious libraries looking to expand their early Jewish history sections may find it useful.-Amy Lilien-Harper, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Waldman (Too Young For Yiddish, p. 106, etc) begins by asking why of all the ancient cultures and religions of the Mediterranean only the Jews have survived. His answer is that the promise of the land, Eretz Yisrael, which God made to Abraham, has sustained the Jewish people through Diaspora and the many calamities they have suffered. Retelling the story of the Covenant, the sojourn in Egypt, and the Exodus is central to Jewish observance. Waldman relates these stories and emphasizes their role in keeping the Jewish religion alive. While there are additional reasons for the long-term survival of the Jews, prohibitions against intermarriage, for example, this focuses on the role of place in Jewish belief. For the most part, it is a straightforward account that sticks to Biblical sources, except when the author allows himself artistic license for statements like "Moses smiled deeply" when he gazed for the first time across the Jordan valley to the Promised Land. Waldman employs his characteristically muted palette of browns and golds to depict the Israelites. Heavy on text and not likely to appeal to a younger crowd. (Picture book. 11+)
Neil Waldman's work has won many honors, including the Washington Irving Award, the Award of Merit from the Society of Illustrators, and the National Jewish Book Award. He also was awarded a Gold Medal from the United Nations for his poster celebrating the International Year of Peace. He lives for two years in Israel and now resides in Greenburgh, New York, with his wife, Kathy.