Maybe It Hap­pened This Way: Bible Sto­ries Reimagined

Leah Rachel Berkowitz and Eri­ca Wovsaniker; Kather­ine Mes­sen­ger, illus.

  • Review
By – September 2, 2022

Chil­dren are often taught sto­ries from the Bible as midrashim. These tales can be pre­sent­ed in an engag­ing yet sim­ple man­ner, allow­ing their built-in lessons to shine through. Occa­sion­al­ly thoughts, com­ments, and events are added in an attempt to bring the sto­ries to life, with the result that they are often long-remem­bered. But there can be a draw­back to this method of learn­ing. Chil­dren don’t always dis­tin­guish between the orig­i­nal sto­ries told in the Torah and these more col­or­ful, mem­o­rable ver­sions. This book and its unusu­al approach elim­i­nates that prob­lem. It explains the con­cept and uses of midrash while relat­ing the sto­ries in a relat­able and inter­est­ing way.

The authors share twen­ty tales, each clear­ly and mem­o­rably told. In intro­duc­to­ry sec­tions, the authors explain­midrash in a way that chil­dren can under­stand, allow­ing them easy access to the deep­er, rich­er ver­sions of the sto­ries to come and elim­i­nat­ing any pos­si­ble con­fu­sion. The sto­ry of Adam and Eve, their encounter with the Ser­pent, and their expul­sion from the Gar­den of Eden receives a poignant ren­der­ing; Noah and his rela­tion­ship with his grand­son as they look toward the future feels endear­ing­ly opti­mistic; and Abra­ham’s smash­ing of his father’s idols is nuanced and com­plex. Rebec­ca, Rachel, Leah, Joseph, Ben­jamin, Moses, Aaron, Miri­am, and oth­ers make appear­ances in ways that both edu­cate and enter­tain. Not only that,the text appears along­side black and white line draw­ings that enhance under­stand­ing and clarity.

With this book, chil­dren learn that there is more than one way to tell a good sto­ry and have its lessons stick. They begin to under­stand the use­ful­ness of learn­ing about the Bible through midrashim in addi­tion to the tra­di­tion­al approach of read­ing direct­ly from its pages.

A use­ful dis­cus­sion guide con­cludes the text, hom­ing in on Jew­ish val­ues and ques­tions for fur­ther thought and dis­cus­sion. There is also an index that ties each sto­ry back to its orig­i­nal Torah source.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

Discussion Questions