A worthy cultural treasury with appeal to both the faithful and irreligious.


Following her Treasury of Egyptian Mythology (2013) and Tales From the Arabian Nights (2016), Napoli brings her literary eye to a yet another ancient tradition.

Napoli opens with ebullient prose in her retelling of Creation with a “wondrous beginning” and “crystalline start” leading to an Earth that is “lush” and “fragrant,” standing in pointed contrast to the sparse simplicity of the source material found in Genesis 1. Continuing onward she spends the first half of the treasury covering stories from just the first two books of the Torah, retelling the ubiquitous tale of Noah and the establishment of Jewish identity. As the Children of Israel reach the promised land, the treasury begins to diverge from a strict chronology, and succeeding entries follow the order of the Jewish canon, introducing the Nevi’im with David, Goliath, and later Jonah, then on to the Ketuvim, in which such women as Ruth and Esther shine. Title notwithstanding, this collection does not include the Christian New Testament. Balit’s bold illustrations accompany each tale and feature a diversity of skin tones that reflects the many lands from northeast Africa to the Middle East where the drama unfolds; Adam and Eve appear to be sub-Saharan Africans, echoing current thinking on human origins. Sidebars throughout add historical and scientific context to the stories presented while backmatter includes maps, timelines, and brief biographies of the major players.

A worthy cultural treasury with appeal to both the faithful and irreligious. (Religion. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4263-3538-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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An exciting and thought-provoking evocation of a strong, brave young woman.



From the Called and Courageous Girls series

In a retelling of the story of Deborah taken from the Hebrew Bible, she emerges as thoughtful and trustworthy, with God’s words to guide her.

While on a hill overlooking her village, Deborah spots an army of chariots. She and her friends bravely rush to warn the villagers in time to escape. King Jabin, his general, Sisera, and his men destroy the village, but the people, including Deborah’s family, escape. The army continues to attack villages throughout the land, maintaining a reign of terror. Deborah definitely has God on her side, as he speaks directly to her, telling her that she has been chosen to lead her people to freedom. On God’s instructions the battle is joined with Deborah and the soldier Barak in the lead and with God’s intervention in the form of lightning, pouring rain, and floods. With their bravery and that of the Israelites, freedom is achieved. The authors employ accessible and poetic language to tell the tale, with careful attention to the characters and details as they appear in the Bible and with particular emphasis on Deborah’s faith in God. Elwell’s strongly hued illustrations capture the texture, light, action, and power of the tale. Deborah and the Israelites are depicted with dark hair and eyes and deep-toned swarthy skin color.

An exciting and thought-provoking evocation of a strong, brave young woman. (questions, author’s note) (Picture book/religion. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7369-7371-7

Page Count: 49

Publisher: Harvest House

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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This biography sometimes feels like a great song, so sad it can leave you joyous.



Stories about heroes are almost always a little sad.

Like many activists, Natan Sharansky was punished nearly every time he fought for the goals he believed in. He was accused publicly of espionage by the Soviet authorities and spent years in prison and in labor camps, separated from his wife. The saddest part is that, for many people, his goals would have qualified as ordinary life: He wanted to live in Israel and practice his religion in the open. He eventually won those rights for himself and other Soviet Jews. Even after being locked up for close to a decade and completing several hunger strikes, he still had a remarkable sense of humor. While the dialogue captures emotional tenors well throughout, the most memorable lines in this graphic biography are often jokes he made. When KGB agents followed him into a taxi, he asked if they’d split the cab fare, and after years of constant surveillance, he said, “It’s like I have two shadows: one that is mine, and the other the KGB’s.” The text in the panels’ narrative boxes is less engaging, often coming across as boilerplate, but the pictures help to capture Sharansky’s personality. Though the likenesses—especially the pictures of presidents—aren’t always convincing, some of the drawings are vivid enough to look nearly alive. The historical figures in the illustrations are almost all light-skinned Soviets, Israelis, and Americans.

This biography sometimes feels like a great song, so sad it can leave you joyous. (timeline, glossary, reading list, historical notes) (Graphic biography. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-8899-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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