A retelling of the biblical story of Miriam for young readers.
In this debut novella, former children’s librarian Letzter embellishes Old Testament details about the character of Miriam to create a lively, engaging tale. It begins with Miriam’s mother, Yochebed, becoming pregnant with Moses, and goes on to imagine Miriam’s childhood and family life as she, Moses and their brother Aaron suffer through Egyptian slavery. Miriam is a spunky protagonist—brave, capable and helpful to her family. Indeed, she doesn’t seem to have any flaws, which makes her seem a bit one-dimensional, but she remains likable and shows moral strength throughout. Her two brothers, however, are more complex, and readers may wish that the story devoted more space to them and their changing relationship; most other secondary characters are a bit flat, which takes away some of the story’s tension. The novella’s main issue, however, is its pacing, as too many early chapters are given over to intricate descriptions of minor characters and small events before Moses is even born. The story’s tone is also a bit too modern at times: An overseer “used to sneak off for a beer,” and a young slave girl “likes to play princesses with her dolls.” Once Moses reaches manhood, his decision to kill an Egyptian and flee into the desert is rendered without true urgency or suspense, and as the story nears its conclusion, too many events are addressed at once. The last two pages summarize the rest of the Exodus story and present the crossing of the Red Sea so quickly that the events don’t feel organic to the established narrative arc; it might have been better to end the story without mentioning these happenings instead of hastily appending them. Still, Letzter’s appreciation for her subject, and for children’s literature in general, permeates the novella, which could serve as a good introduction to the story for children eager to learn—and parents eager to teach.
A well-intentioned but awkwardly executed rendition of a biblical tale.