Miriam at the River by Jane Yolen and Khoa Le

Miriam at the River cover art: Girl by the river looking over baby in a basket, reeds and hippo in foreground

Jane Yolen, who notably published her 400th book this month, earned Sydney Taylor accolades for one more in 2021: MIRIAM AT THE RIVER, illustrated by Khoa Le. In this picture book, Yolen tells the earliest part of the Passover story from Miriam’s point of view, in first person.

The protagonist expresses her thoughts, hopes, and worries throughout the act of planting her baby brother Moses in his basket amongst the reeds of the Nile. Miriam lets on the she has been planning for this moment, having staked out a spot to place the baby and a place to hide, as well as gathering intel on the princess’s comings and goings. The seven-year-old girl explores her relationship with G-d, asserting her bravery with G-d’s guidance and laws.

The real draw for me in this one, however, is the vibrant and stylized illustration from Khoa Le. With colors reminiscent of mid-century picture books, the style is altogether whimsical, contemporary, and unique. The imagery works with the reader’s imagination to draw them to the river’s edge, letting kids wait with Miriam for the Pharaoh’s daughter to come along and rescue baby Moses.

Illustrations from “Miriam at the River” ©2020 by Jane Yolen, appear with the permission of Kar-Ben Publishing, www.karben.com

A lovely homage to the prophet Miriam and snippet of the Passover story, although it doesn’t necessarily stand on its own entirely. Having experience with the holiday makes it an accessible book for Jewish children, and the afterword includes a midrash, or story from the Torah, that puts this moment into context.

Great read for families, but public classroom teachers be aware this is solidly a bible story and should be approached as your school approaches other holiday-related books. The copy I ordered is library-bound, with no jacket. Very high quality production and an enjoyable read.


Published by Sara Lesley Arnold

Librarian and writer

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