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(photo credit: Courtesy)
”In the very beginning, God created a world – the heavens and the earth – out of nothing.”
So begins the JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible, the recent winner of the Jewish Book Council’s National Jewish Book Award for an illustrated children’s book.
Written by Ellen Frankel and illustrated by The Jerusalem Report
’s staff artist Avi Katz, the book was also named “Notable Book” by the US Association of Jewish Libraries’ Sidney Taylor in the category “For All Ages.”
Katz said it aims to make the Bible more accessible to children. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post
, he said: “The idea [behind the book] is to have a standard, universally acceptable version [of the Bible] for kids to read and learn the basic Jewish stories that every Western child and Jewish child should know. But it’s such a big book, with so much happening, and there are so many ways to look at it all.”
Frankel added: “One thing I’m really pleased about the book was that most children’s bibles, they don’t honor the original text as it was, even in modern English, but aim to edit and abridge the text. They add interpretation, making the story into Western fairy tales or following the form of fairy tales, and these are not meant to be fairy tales, they were meant to be truth and history.”
Katz explained the potential difficulty in dealing with the more adult themes and content of the biblical stories, and how as an artist, this could present certain difficulties: “While the illustrations had to be straightforward, and to tell a story while also being visually enchanting, I occasionally had some dilemmas about how to represent certain aspects.
“For example, with the snake in the story of Adam and Eve, the writer was very excited because I gave the snake legs in my illustration, because it says in the story that it was cursed to crawl on its belly for all eternity, and its legs are removed.”
Katz, who is also a Bible teacher, added his own interpretation of the text, depicting the famous story of the biblical matriarch Sara giving birth to Isaac as a middle-aged woman, rather than as the classically told 90-year old.
“The Hebrew word for year is ‘shana
but since Rosh Hashana, the New Year, is said to be in the sixth month
in the Torah, I understood a shana not to be a simple solar year, but a
“Therefore, if Sarah was 90 shanim, she had her first child at 45, and
so that’s how I depicted it. It’s still extraordinary in a biblical
society, to live to the ripe old age of 60 instead of 120, it also
makes more sense.”
Receiving the award was exciting, he said.
“Because I’ve been illustrating for many years and you don’t have an
audience in front of you, so you don’t get to see the reaction your
work produces, yet here I was, standing on the stage, getting
applauded, being asked to give a speech, it was really fun!”