Jane Yolen lives in Massachusetts and has written more than 300 books across all genres and age ranges. She has been called the Hans Christian Andersen of America and the Aesop of the twentieth century.
Another famous children's author has a Passover book for this spring, and this one is a fresh take on the story of Moses as seen through the eyes of his sister, Miriam. Jane Yolen, who has written over 300 books across all genres and age ranges, has retold Miriam's story with a lyrical voice of great power. Yolen imagines Miriam as a 7-year-old Egyptian slave who follows 'God's voice' to place her baby brother in a basket on the waters of the Nile. The blues, greens and browns of the color palette and the fluid strokes of watercolor truly enhance the story of this baby carried on his dangerous journey. The image of a sleeping infant in a reed basket with two youthful brown hands letting him go is quite moving. Miriam, future prophetess, reflects on the rippling waters of the river as she imagines a different parting of waters in God's future plans for her. This exquisite retelling of the poignant beginnings of Moses' life is welcome particularly because it emphasizes the courage and selflessness of the female characters of the biblical story. -- Lisa Silverman, Jewish Journal -- Magazine As the world again faces a destructive plague, we are all seeking leaders who can take us out and forward into a better day and perhaps a promised land. What better time, then, to enjoy this beautiful book by acclaimed author Jane Yolen? Combining her fluid poetry with the equally flowing artwork of Vietnamese artist Khoa Le, Yolen retells the Biblical story of Miriam, the sister and savior of the Jewish people's greatest leader and savior, Moses. 'I am afraid and not afraid, ' Miriam admits, revealing her legendary bravery was not absolute and yet was enough to give her the necessary strength to go against pharaoh's orders and hide her infant brother instead of allowing him to be killed. 'He is so small, so much at risk, ' Miriam observes of her infant brother in the basket. Protected by her mother's tight weaving and the watchful eye of God, Moses not only survives but becomes a great leader; one whose word goes against and eventually overcomes that of the great Pharaoh- a man who was though to be a god yet who was no match for the one true God. Pharaoh's words and Pharaoh's laws must be obeyed, even the wicked ones. But God's law is what I follow. And God's voice in the one I hear, even when others do not listen to what God has to say To help her readers understand her words and God's, Yolen includes an explanatory midrash from the Torah about the story of Moses. She and Le also depict and discuss the many animals who make the Nile their home, reminding readers that their stories matter too. All of these characters- holy and earthly- come together in the introduction of the greatest emancipator in history; the man who returned slaves to freedom and shepherded them to their eternal homeland. At this challenging time (and at all times), we must listen for the true voice within and follow it, no matter what others may say is right and wrong. That is the only way we can ever go forward together as a people. 'Sometimes courage comes from what you do, ' Miriam suggests. 'Sometimes from what you do not do.' May we all find the courage at this season of miracles to keep hope alive! Chag Pesach! -- Matt Robinson, The Robinson Reporter -- Website Giving her baby brother a kiss, little Miriam places his basket into the river. With a push, she sends the basket into the water, hoping her brother will be rescued. Pharaoh's daughter arrives to save him, setting the stage for the boy who will become a prince of Egypt. 'Miriam at the River' revisits the biblical story of Moses as told by his big sister in this book for those ages 5 to 9. -- Bob Jacob, Co-Editor, CJN -- Newspaper Jewish children's literature is enriched this year with Jane Yolen's picture book, Miriam at the River. Unlike other Passover books that primarily focus on family celebrations and offer an overview of the holiday, Yolen introduces children to a different perspective. Using verses from the Book of Exodus and Midrash stories as a reference, Yolen and her illustrator Khoa Le capture the essence of Miriam's belief in God as well as her trepidations when she places her infant brother into a woven basket that eventually floats down the Nile River. Yolen, a master at word choice, helps readers identify with Miriam as she boldly places her brother into the river. 'I say a quick blessing over him, for he is so small, so much at risk. I give him a sister's kiss. Once again, I look around. Then I place the basket in the river near the bending reeds. The basket is heavy and I am small. I pretend I am simply a child playing by the waterside. But under my robe, my heart beats so loudly. I am certain everyone will hear.' As the basket floats down the river, readers remain engaged. They read about a few animals lining the shoreline adeptly illustrated in Le's vibrant images. The text also describes Miriam's concern over her brother's wellbeing. Tensions rise when Yolen reminds young readers that crocodiles lurk in the water and that there is no certainty that the basket will be discovered by the Pharaoh's daughter. When Pharaoh's daughter removes the baby from the basket, she gives the boy the name Moses since he was drawn from the water. In the concluding lines of the story, most will find comfort in knowing that Moses is safe. Since this story only highlights a small portion of the biblical narrative, it is recommended that this book be read along with a cross-section of other Passover books. If they wish, families can include Miriam's Cup, a modern ritual object that is placed next to the Cup of Elijah, as a way of using the story as an introduction to Miriam's role in Jewish history. Just as the newly formed customs associated with Miriam's Cup vary from family to family, Jewish parents should select the books that best represent their traditional values. -- Sandra Bornstein -- Blog Many families have added a 'Miriam's cup' to their seder table in recognition of the important role played by the sister of Moses. With luxuriant visuals and rhythmic, emotionally intense language, Le and Yolen recount the siblings' backstory. Before sunrise, hidden by 'sedge, bulrush, papyrus, reeds' (the papyrus are especially beautiful, imagined here as blue fans striped in red and gold), seven-year-old Miriam stealthily but resolutely slips the handwoven basket containing Moses onto the sparkling, sumptuously swirling turquoise waters of the Nile; storks, ibis, and a curious hippo watch as he floats away and into the arms of Pharaoh's beautiful daughter, whose billowing robes and hair mirror the movements of the water and reeds. Yolen puts readers inside Miriam's mind as the girl carries out her mission and realizes she is part of a bigger destiny. Pharaoh's daughter will mother the child, 'who will capture her heart, / until another water parts, ' and 'some day, all the world/ will know my brother's name.' -- Publisher's Weekly -- Journal Miriam at the River, written by Jane Yolen with illustration by Khoa Le, tells the story of baby Moses' delivery to the Nile River through Miriam's point of view. Yolen's text describes Miriam as a loving sister sharing an emotional moment with her newborn brother before sending him on the journey that inevitably changes the course of Jewish history. With Pesach coming up, it's a great opportunity to teach children about Miriam and her role in the story. It's also great for parents looking to teach children the importance of sibling love and connections. -- Adam Samuel, Journalist, Jewish Link NJ, Teaneck, NJ -- Blog This is a beautifully told, exquisitely illustrated midrash about Miriam putting her brother, Moses, into the Nile River to save him from Pharaoh's death decree. Jane Yolen is a master storyteller, and she once again proves this with simple words, written in free verse as lilting and calming as the river's water. The reader learns about Miriam and her prophecies regarding Moses. She has seen the Pharaoh's daughter pick her brother from the water. She has seen the Red Sea part, and while she is not sure what all her visions mean, she knows that her brother will live to become a great man. The illustrations are breathtaking. Using digital methods supplemented by traditional overlays of watercolor and natural textures, and blues, browns and splashes of red - the colors of the river, the strength of Miriam, the calmness of Moses, and the beauty of Pharaoh's daughter unfold. Of particular interest (to this reviewer) is the use of hippopotami in the story. Once indigenous to Egypt and flourishing along the Nile, they were decimated in modern times to stop them destroying cropland. Today, small groups can be found in South Sudan. Their presence in this story offers an opportunity to talk about human encroachment on animal habitats. This beautiful addition to the Passover collection can be used very easily during the Maggid section of a Passover Seder with children - young and old. This is perfect Midrash, well researched and beautifully laid out in story and picture. The free verse is brilliant. The back page describing where the story comes from clearly reflects the author's research into the midrashic process, The book is published by Kar-Ben Publishing and widely available. This is a worthy contender for the Sydney Taylor Gold Medal for Picture Books. -- Kathy Bloomfield, VP of the Association of Jewish Libraries, Sydney Taylor Shmooze -- Blog This is a story about Moses from the Biblical book of Exodus. It is told from his sister Miriam's point-of-view, who helped save his life when he was an infant. It shows of the deep love she had for her brother, which involved putting him in a position where he was found and taken in by an Egyptian so his life could be saved. She and her family were blessed that he could still be in their lives through this plan. This book will help educate children about the story of Moses in ways that they will most likely understand. I believe it will help them to picture what it may have been like. There is truth in this story but there is also some fiction, like when describing some of the animals in the water Moses was put in, which could have had some truth to some of it, but mainly it tries to help the readers to imagine what it could've been like in the water Moses was put in. I like that there is a description in the back of the book about how Moses' name relates to water and gives examples of how water is involved with each of his sister's gifts of prophecy that are used with him. I think this is the deepest version of a children's story about Moses that I have come across. -- Jill Harris -- Blog Yolen, a master storyteller, will enchant a new generation of young readers with this imaginative, lyrical retelling of the biblical story of Miriam, the older sister of Moses. Set in ancient times along the banks of the Nile River, a 7-year-old Miriam finds the courage to save the life of her baby brother. The story sets the stage for the future of the Exodus story. Le illustrates with swirls of color and ripples of water as the basket with baby Moses drifts past a lush landscape of storks and a hippopotamus. An author's note gives the biblical background and explains the recurring ties between Miriam and water in the Exodus story. -- Penny Schwartz, JTA -- Newspaper