Papa Jethro

16 Dec

1160924Papa Jethro written by Deborah Bodin Cohen and illustrated by Jane Dippold (2007)

Rachel is always so happy to see her Grandpa Nick when he comes to visit. Grandpa Nick keeps candy in his pockets for Rachel, they play games together, and Grandpa Nick tells her bedtime stories. One day Rachel asks Grandpa Nick why he goes to church and she goes to synagogue. Grandpa Nick tells Rachel the story of Moses’ father-in-law, Papa Jethro. Papa Jethro was a leader of a people called the Midianites, but Moses and his son, Gershom, were Jewish. Grandpa Nick explains that Gershom’s father and mother (Moses and Zipporah) fell in love and started a family even though they came from different backgrounds. And when Moses was called to return to Egypt and lead his people to freedom, Gershom and his mother and baby brother stayed behind in Midian with Papa Jethro until he returned. Gershom played games with Papa Jethro and Papa Jethro told him stories too. But when Moses crossed the Red Sea with the Israelites, Papa Jethro took Gershom, his mother, and baby brother back to the desert to be with Moses and returned to Midian alone. Sometimes Papa Jethro would travel back to the desert to visit his grandsons. He would give them delicious Midianite candies, play games, and tell stories. Papa Jethro taught Gershom a few Midianite words, they called it their secret code. And Gershom told Papa Jethro all about being Jewish. Even though they came from different backgrounds they still loved each other. Papa Jethro didn’t want to change something that was very important to him, and he didn’t want Gershom to change something that was very important to him either. Just as Rachel is about to fall asleep she asks Grandpa Nick if it matters to him that she is Jewish and he is Christian. Grandpa Nick replies, “You are my granddaughter. Nothing else matters. I love you just like Papa Jethro loved Gershom.”

Deborah Bodin Cohen writes a beautiful story within a story about interfaith families. She treats both stories and all the differences between the families with dignity and respect. Her words help children understand that it is love that holds families together, not their differences.

Jane Dippold’s illustrations have an ‘ancient feel’ about them. The reader is transported from a modern day bedroom with a Grandpa in a shirt and tie to biblical period in history with a Papa in robes and sandals. And in both settings, she depicts love and happiness.

I really love this story. It’s not the traditional quirky picture book. It takes a serious look at family differences and helps the reader understand that interfaith relationships have been around for thousands of years, and that the love that keeps a family together that is more important than what differences they may have.

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2 Responses to “Papa Jethro”

  1. Patricia Tilton December 17, 2014 at 1:19 PM #

    This sounds like a very unique story. And Jethro is an older name, but has a gentleness about it. Love the focus on interfaith relationships! So important today.

    Like

    • Juliana Lee December 17, 2014 at 3:12 PM #

      Thanks Pat. I found this book over the summer and just couldn’t wait to post it for the holidays.

      Liked by 1 person

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