Review: Hiding Baby Moses

 Hiding Baby Moses 

by Judith L. Roth, illustrated by Melanie Cataldo

Flyaway Books

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Kathy Bloomfield

This is a lovingly told, beautifully illustrated midrash of the “Moses in a Basket” story. Miriam is depicted as a courageous older sister looking out for her baby brother, even standing up to the formidable looking Pharaoh’s daughter and her retinue. There are, however, a few items in this version that should give the Jewish reader pause.

First, as Moses’ mother (who is only referred to as Mama in the story) carries the basket to the Nile River, she sings a soothing song. The song, “The Shelter of God’s Wings” has these lyrics: “God will hide us in the shelter of a rock./ God will shield with holy feathers, hide us ‘neath strong wings./ A refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat,/ God will hide us in the shelter of strong wings,” that bear a striking resemblance to passages from Psalms (91:4, 17:8) and Isaiah (32:2), yet nowhere – not even on the page that holds the songs music - does the book credit those verses. In addition, one might ask why are Hebrew slaves reciting verses written by a king who will not be born for 500 years?

The other issues are found in the “More About Moses” section at the end of the book. There, a synopsis of Moses’ story is provided and referenced to the “Old Testament (Exodus 2)”. In addition, Moses is described as growing up “to become the great leader who freed his people from their slavery in Egypt…” something attributed to God in the Hebrew Bible. Finally, the back cover of the book refers to “God’s faithfulness” being revealed through Miriam’s risking her life for someone she loves, a Christian concept more than a Jewish one.

While this book is well-written and beautifully illustrated, it is not a contender for the Sydney Taylor Book Award for Young Readers. As they say, “The devil is in the details,” and the details of this book fall short of expectations for consideration for a Jewish award.

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Reviewer Kathy Bloomfield is the President of the Association of Jewish Libraries. She is working hard during the COVID-19 pandemic to upgrade her long dormant website, She lives in Seal Beach, CA.