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The ram waits patiently in the Garden of Eden and beyond until God calls. More than once the Evil One tries to thwart him, but the ram insists, "I must save the child." He runs through swamps and jungles, leaps over lions, and finally scales the sacred mount, where he sees Isaac bound to an altar and Abraham weeping. After God intercedes with Abraham, the ram meets his fate "and his soul [flies] into God's hands." Children who don't know the story will be lost, but, of course, many will be familiar with the biblical tale. Gerstein offers an explanation about the necessity of the sacrifice through dialogue between Abraham and God, with Abraham wondering why God tested him, knowing that he would do whatever was asked. God replies, "I wanted the whole world to see your love and your trust in me so that all people might follow your example." This may temper the scene for some, even as it raises more questions for others. Of course, Gerstein can only work within the parameters of the original text. In that context, he tries hard to bring a sense of nobility to the story, embuing the ram with a fidelity that is heroic.
The art does not shy away from the fearsomeness of the story but it, too, attempts to offer hope. The intense painting, executed in inks, oils, and colored pencil, clearly depict both the evil in the world (as personified by a particularly fierce devilish character in several guises) as well as the power of God and His word. Gerstein uses shape and color to move the action through the lower realms of swamp and earth and then elevates the scene of the sacrifice on a high mountain. Though God is not seen, hints of his hands are visible in the clouds for those who look closely. Especially moving is the double-page spread that shows the broken ram on the altar, its spirit flying into the light. A stirring visual finale, on pages touched with gold, explains how the ram's ashes and bones came to build a great Temple, and how his horns will be used to call the people of Israel home. Ilene Cooper
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This is one of those rare children's books you'll keep no matter how old you and your children get. The illustrations are beautiful. Read morePublished on June 4, 2008 by Anne Lang Bundy
Hear an interview with The White Ram author/illustrator Mordicai Gerstein on The Book of Life podcast's September 2007 episode "Seeing Through New Eyes" at [...]Published on January 24, 2008 by Heidi Estrin