In Silverberg's book, we read of Ruth, who ends up being treated like a servant after being orphaned.
By SYBIL KAPLANNaomi's Song
By Selma Kritzer Silverberg
Jewish Publication Society
142 pp., $14 paperback
Sammy Spider's First Shavuot
By Sylvia A. Rouss
Beginning in 1992, Anita Diamant unknowingly began an entire genre of books when she penned The Red Tent, a book of biblical fiction about Dinah, the daughter of Leah and Jacob.
After that Orson Scott Card came out with: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah; Shera Tuchman and Sandra E. Rapoport brought out Moses' Women; and one of my favorite authors, Israeli Eva Etzioni-Halevy wrote Song of Hannah, Garden of Ruth and Triumph of Deborah.
Way ahead of her time, Selma Kritzer Silverberg wrote Naomi's Song in 1959 as a birthday gift for her daughter. She did not finish it until nine years later and it sat on a bookshelf. In 1984, she made copies for her granddaughters and again, it sat on a shelf for 20 years. In 2005, just before the 96-year-old woman died, a hospice aide found the manuscript, read it and called it to the attention of her daughter.
Here is a recreated biography of Ruth. In reality, the Book of Ruth is only four chapters long and is read on Shavuot because it takes place at the harvest season; Ruth was an ancestor of King David who is said to have died on Shavuot; and Ruth's conversion and acceptance of Torah fits the holiday commemorating the giving of our Torah.
In Silverberg's book, we read of Ruth, who after being orphaned at 10 ends up living with her uncle and being treated like an indentured servant. She soon meets 13-year-old Elimelek, a shepherd, whose friendship becomes the salvation of her life. By the time he is 18 and she is 15, she knows she is in love with him but she does not know the feelings are mutual until Elimelek's father visits her uncle and says his son wants her for his wife.
We read of their marriage, their life as shepherds and the move to Moab. This is followed by the birth of their sons who grow up and marry Moabite women. Finally the story most familiar unfolds where Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, chooses to travel to Bethlehem with her and be by her side.
The story may have been in the imagination of Selma Silverberg, but she wrote it with such passion and knowledge, she makes the reading very realistic and believable. One would love to know whether she found material in the midrash or created the life of Naomi and Ruth from her imagination. Whichever the case, this is a book adults, as well as young adults would find enjoyable.
THOSE WHO have read all the Sammy Spider books may be unsure whether Sammy and his mother, who live in the home of the Shapiros, a Jewish family, have converted or not. Why? Because Sammy's intense curiosity and his mother's knowledge of Jewish customs and traditions have taught him about many holidays and rituals. Sammy is featured in three books on Pessah; two each on Hanukka, Shabbat and Israel; and one each on Purim, Tu Bishvat, Succot and Rosh Hashana.
Now in another charming adventure of the inquisitive little spider, Sammy observes preparations for Shavuot, specifically the making of blintzes with some other specifics about the holiday as the Shapiro family celebrates.
As with all of the Sammy books, his mother tries to persuade Sammy that spiders spin webs.
The book is geared for three- to nine-year-olds and is a delight to read.
Sylvia A. Rouss has written more than 25 children's books, many of them award winning. She is a preschool teacher in Los Angeles. Katherine Janus Kahn, an illustrator of more than 30 children's books and a painter and sculptor, is from Maryland. She provides the colorful, paper-cut illustrations.
Sybil Kaplan is a journalist, book reviewer, and author who lives in Jerusalem. Among her books is Countdown to Shavuot for children. firstname.lastname@example.org
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