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Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim: A Passover Story Paperback – February, 2009

4.8 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to rabbinic lore, Nachshon was the first Israelite to enter the sea when Pharaoh's army pursued the fleeing slaves. Cohen (The Seventh Day) and Jago (Fig's Giant) offer a backstory to this legend, portraying Nachshon as a boy brave enough to defy his taskmasters yet unable to overcome his fear of water. Inspired by Moses (Real freedom means believing in yourself), Nachshon discovers that redemption means being free from slavery and free from his fears. Although the themes of self-actualization land rather heavily (Moses sounds like a disciple of Oprah), Cohen succeeds in transporting the Exodus story to a personal scale without robbing it of significance. Jago's highly stylized digital pictures are handsome and heartfelt: his gold-hued palette and mural-like compositions convey the heat and oppressiveness of Egypt, while his elaborately textured (and seemingly handmade) surfaces make the pages feel burnished by the forces of history and faith. Ages 3–8. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 1–4—Not much has been written about the biblical figure believed to be the first to step into the Sea of Reeds during the Israelite's exodus from Egypt. However, Cohen has successfully fictionalized the scant biblical account and embellished the midrash to create a child-friendly picture book about overcoming fear, trusting in God, and believing in oneself. As a boy, Nachshon earned his reputation for bravery by smuggling cool drinking water to his father and brothers in the quarries, spying on Pharaoh's royal courtiers, and venturing out into the darkness of the ninth plague to check on his neighbors. But despite these courageous acts, he was terrified of the water and refused to venture into the Nile. Yet when the Israelites finally fled and stood on the banks of the Sea of Reeds, it was Nachshon who led the way. Remembering what Moses had taught—"Real freedom means facing your fears and overcoming them"—he stepped into the water and the level reached his lips before the sea miraculously parted, allowing the Israelites to escape from the advancing Egyptian army. The digitally prepared, mixed-media illustrations utilize muted yellow, orange, and brown tones to depict the sweltering heat of the desert and bright blue and green tones to illustrate the celebration of freedom. They complement and enhance the text marvelously. A wonderful, unique addition.—Rachel Kamin, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, IL
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 3 and up
  • Series: Passover
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Kar-Ben Pub (February 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822587653
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822587651
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 10 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #747,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a beautifully written midrash about the story of Nachshon, the individual who was the first to step into the waters of the Reed Sea thereby enabling the Jewish People to reach freedom on the other side. Nachshon is portrayed as a brave young man who is not afraid of anything - Egyptian taskmasters, royal courtiers, frogs, locusts - except swimming. Water, it seemed, terrified him. Until the moment when he realizes that in order to reach freedom he must face his fears and step into the water. The language of the book is perfect for youngsters to feel the difficult life of the slaves, their excitement at Moses' return to the slave village, the fear of Nachshon's decision to enter into the water. There are many opportunities for discussion here about things children may be afraid of and how they might overcome their fears. The illustrations are wondrous, sophisticated art in soft colors portraying the desert heat and the cool water. All in all an exceptional book for Passover or Bible story time. - KATHY BLOOMFIELD - WELLESLEY, MA
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Format: Library Binding
REVIEWED BY: Wayne S. Walker, reviewer with Stories for Children Magazine

Nachshon, along with the rest of his family and all the Israelites, is a slave in Egypt. His parents, grandparents, and even great-great-grandparents have been slaves, and he is afraid that he may be a slave for his whole life, too. However, Nachshon remembers the stories of how long ago his ancestors had been free, and he dreams of freedom every night. Nachshon's father and brothers make straw and mud into bricks in the hot sun, but Nachshon slips past the taskmasters to bring them cool drinking water. He also spies on Pharaoh and his royal courtiers to give reports to the Israelite elders. Everyone begins calling him "Brave Nachshon." But Nachshon does have one fear: When the other slaves take a cool dip in the Nile River each evening, he is afraid of water.

One day, a stranger named Moses comes and promises the Israelites freedom. That evening, when the slaves jump in the river, Moses sees Nachshon's hesitation and says, "Real freedom means facing your fears and overcoming them." Many people can tell the story from here. Moses calls on Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. At first the king refuses, but after ten terrible plagues, he finally agrees, and the Israelites march to the Sea of Reeds. Looking back, they see the armies of Pharaoh chasing them. When Moses tells them to march forward into the sea, what will Nachshon, who is still afraid to swim, do?

According to a note by author Deborah Bodin Cohen, the Torah includes only brief references to Nachshon ben Aminadav who was a leader in the tribe of Judah (Naashon or Nahshon in English bibles; see Numbers 1:7). However, in the Midrash or Rabbinic lore, his story is more fully developed as an example of faith and courage.
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Format: Paperback
Cohen's interpretation of the midrash of Nachshon being the first Israelite to enter the Nile upon their escape from Egypt allows the modern child to relate to the story. Nachshon is portrayed as a hero who has one flaw - he is afraid to swim. He is a slave who is excited and encouraged by the appearance of Moses. When the whole nation stops at the Nile and is being chased by the Egyptians he is portrayed as being so inspired by Moses that he is the first to enter despite his fear of the water. The digitally prepared, mixed-media illustrations are brightly colored portrayals of the people and surroundings of Egypt. The scenes are meant to be historically based although recognizable to the today's children as something they can relate to, e.g. the tents and bonfire as the Israelites leave Egypt. It is a positive and fun addition to Passover reading. Ages 4-9. Drora Arussy
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Deborah Bodin Cohen uses parts of a Midrash story to create Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim. The story is set in Egypt just prior to the Exodus. Nachson is a young Israelite slave who is afraid to swim. Nachson longs for the freedom that his ancestors once enjoyed. He looks up to Moses as someone who can make his dreams become reality. He listens intently when Moses says, “Real freedom means believing in yourself. Real Freedom means facing your fears and overcoming them.” When the Israelites head toward the Sea of Reeds, Nachshon is near the front of the group. As the Egyptians approached, Nachshon recalled Moses’ inspiring words and walked into the water. As Nachshon focused on Moses’ words, he overcame his fears. Before the water went past his shoulders, it receded. On the other side of the river, Nachshon was free in all respects.

This uplifting tale is a wonderful addition to a Passover and general book collection. The story can be read year round to enforce the meaningful message that it is important to face one’s fears and have confidence in one’s ability.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book while looking for a child friendly Haggadah for our Seder. I read this book with my 5 year old son and he really liked it. It tells a story about a little known person in the story of Exodus but also covers basic emotions any school aged child can relate to. I also read this to his peers at his pre-school and they were all intently listening to the story and had great things to say when we talked about the book. Not your typical book about Passover but that's what makes it so good.
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