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Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim from Kar-Ben Publishing is written by Deborah Bodin Cohen with illustrations by Jago. Today’s Guest Reviewers are L.A. Parent calendar editor Michael Berick and his 6-year-old daughter Julia. A first grader, Julia enjoys reading (especially Harry Potter), creating art and making up characters.
The book Nachson, Who Was Afraid To Swim tells the story of a young Jewish boy (Nachshon) back in the days when Jews were slaves in the land of Egypt. Few things scared young Nachshon, not even the Pharaoh, so people started calling him “Brave Nachshon.” However, he does have one major fear – that is going into the water. Later, as a young man, Nachshon meets the prophet Moses and listening to his words changes Nachshon’s life.
The book nicely tells both the bible-based tale of Nachshon’s role in the Jews’ exodus from Egypt as well as the more universal story of facing one’s fears. This is not a particularly well-known Passover tale so non-Jews might not be that familiar with it; however, its story of courage speaks to everyone.
Julia liked the book and was glad that there’s “no Pharaohs to rule over us now.” The part of the book she liked the best was (and this is a spoiler alert) when Nachshon jumped into the water at the book’s end. The slightly stylized illustrations, which somewhat recall Allison Jay’s drawings, suggest ancient times without seeming old-fashion. Julia liked the illustrations at the book’s end where you could see people’s reflections in the water. Julia also thought that it would be a good book to be read to kids ages 3-7, and I would agree with that. While it might not be the best way to introduce the story of Passover to young readers, it is a fine way to teach children about overcoming fears.