Review: Maybe It Happened This Way

Maybe It Happened This Way: Bible Stories Reimagined

by Rabbi Leah Rachel Berkowitz and Erica Wovsaniker, illustrated by Katherine Messenger 

Apples & Honey Press (imprint of Behrman House), 2022

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Jacqueline Jules
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Did Noah procrastinate when building the ark, hoping that the people would change their ways and there would be no need for a flood? Did Abram and Sarai break idols together? Was Moses ultimately relieved to hand over his leadership duties to Joshua? In Maybe It Happened This Way, authors Rabbi Leah Rachel Berkowitz and Erica Wovsaniker offer readers an opportunity to imagine themselves inside Biblical stories, experiencing the events. The text is poetic. When Eve bites into the forbidden apple, “the taste burst onto her tongue.” Many stories are told in first person, respecting a middle school reader’s ability to understand events through the eyes of an adult. Shifra, one of the midwives who risked her life to save Hebrew babies in Egypt, shares her story in a personal narrative describing the courage needed to defy Pharaoh. Every story is told with immediacy. Readers stand with the daughters of Zelophehad when they demand their deceased father’s portion of the land. They feel Aaron’s pain when Miriam falls ill. This creative midrash collection provides a refreshing take on familiar Torah stories, asking the reader to expand their perception of Biblical characters. Maybe Benjamin, unlike his older brothers, did recognize Joseph right away. Maybe, as the introduction suggests, “we need one truth sometimes and one truth at other times.”

Maybe It Happened This Way is beautifully written and provides positive religious content. The collection has a nice balance of perspectives from both men and women. Back matter includes a list of traditional sources, a discussion guide, and a Jewish values guide. Maybe It Happened This Way would make an excellent text to share in a middle school or high school classroom. Readers will feel a greater connection to biblical stories after reading this book. It meets all the criteria for the Sydney Taylor Book Award. 
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Reviewer Jacqueline Jules is the author of fifty books for young readers including The Porridge Pot Goblin, The Hardest Word, Picnic at Camp Shalom, Drop by Drop: A Story of Rabbi Akiva, Light the Menorah: A Hanukkah Handbook, and Never Say a Mean Word Again. Her middle grade verse novel, My Name is Hamburger, is a PJ Our Way selection. She lives on Long Island and enjoys talking long walks along the water. Visit her online at