________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 13 . . . . February 16, 2007


In the Days of Sand and Stars.

Marlee Pinsker. Illustrated by François Thisdale.
Toronto, ON: Tundra, 2006.
87 pp., cloth, $26.99.
ISBN 978-88776-724-1.

Subject Headings:
Legends, Jewish-Juvenile literature.
Midrash-Juvenile literature.
Women in the Bible-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.

Review by Danya David.

*** /4


The first animals were like all those that followed. They weren’t surprised by much, because they took things for granted the way animals do. But the woman made them stop chewing their vegetables and look up.

First of all, she could speak their language. Adam had named them, but the woman could speak to them.

With a compelling debut, Marlee Pinsker presents her inspired rendition of 10 Biblical stories, paying tribute to the powerful women who stirred our ethics and morality. In the Days of Sand and Stars is an 87-page illustrated book glowing with reverie towards ancient Judaic beliefs and customs and offering new perspectives on old narratives. By telling familiar stories through unfamiliar voices, Pinsker positions her readers at new angles, urging them to consider the silences and softer voices that resonate throughout the Torah. She portrays the biblical women as heroic- through their invaluable insight and intuition, wisdom and generosity, and through heightened abilities to communicate and to form community with one another. Pinkser animates these heroines by placing them in the spotlight, attributing to them the recognition their wisdom and deeds demand.

internal art

     The book focuses on Eve, Dina, Yocheved, as well as the four Matriarchs: Sarah, Rachel, Leah, Rebecca- presenting them as nurturers, visionaries, and as agents of change. Pinsker’s passion for the Torah and Midrash is clear through her rendering of characters with utmost admiration and respect. She illustrates the heroic women of the Bible in all psychological states, through them showing the entire range of human emotion and capability. With her retelling of Noah’s Ark, Naamah, Noah’s wife, for example, is protector, liberator, and disciplinarian, a woman who spearheads initiative to save all the plants and animals, and she does so both with compassion and rigor. Pinsker’s stories send the message to young readers that embedded within the Bible are also women of strength, who played crucial roles and who were indispensable to the creation and continuity of an enlightened compassionate humanity. True- at times Pinkser’s heroines are portrayed in a “goddess”-like manner- the soothing and nurturing image is somewhat smothering. And, although François Thisdale’s illustrations are beautiful, they do reinforce this. His mix of photography and waterpaint to render both the women and the physical spaces languid, open, and graceful, at times has the effect of feeling overly ephemeral, even a bit haunting. Although his illustrations are undoubtedly evocative, they have a New-Age Art kind of feel.

     In the Days of Sand and Stars, however, is a strong first work. The reader will certainly feel impacted in some way by these stories- whether by the texts or by the images which linger in readers mind for some time after. Although some pages are long and demand relief through more illustration, the stories make perfect read-alouds. What’s more, each one appropriately ends in an open-ended manner, engaging listeners and naturally inviting post-discussion.

Highly Recommended.

Danya David is a graduate student in the Master of Arts in Children’s Literature program at University of British Columbia.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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