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The White Ram: A Story of Abraham and Isaac Hardcover – Bargain Price, July 1, 2006

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, July 1, 2006
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 and up
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Holiday House (July 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0823418979
  • ASIN: B005HKSX20
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 9.7 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,711,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 1-5–This stunningly illustrated picture book is based on a Midrash about a white ram that is made by God on the sixth day of creation for a single purpose–to sacrifice himself on the altar in exchange for Abrahams son. The art, done in pen and ink, oils, and colored pencil, is mesmerizing. With a captivating use of language along with true drama, Gerstein tells of the ram that patiently awaits the moment when he can play his part in Gods plan. I must save the boy! he repeats, and the story takes on a true sense of urgency. The selfless act contributes much to subsequent Jewish history, and thus to the entire world. Young children might be frightened by the evil one, who is depicted as taking many clever forms in order to foil the rams intention, but most kids will find the tale exciting. Both Judaic and Christological references can be gleaned from the text, but the story is truly ecumenical and would be universal to all belief systems. Dedicated to all our fellow animals from whom we take and receive so much, this book is sure to provoke thought and provide a moment of reflection about those in our lives who sacrifice so much for us. A masterful melding of illustration and story, The White Ram will enhance all collections.–Lisa Silverman, Sinai Temple Library, Los Angeles
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The story of the binding of Isaac is not for the fainthearted. Abraham's willingness to slay his child, Isaac, in deference to God's wishes has provoked questions for millennia. So how does an author present a story so disturbing to many adults to an audience of children? Basing the story on Midrash, Jewish tales about Old Testament stories, Caldecott Medal-winner Gerstein frames his picture book around the pure white ram that ultimately takes Isaac's place.

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 6 customer reviews
The illustrations are beautiful.
Anne Lang Bundy
One of the most difficult stories in the Bible is that of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22).
Experienced Editor
This book is about the act of remembering.
Jewish Book World Magazine

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Kamin on January 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In this midrash from the story of the binding of Isaac, God sends a ram to take Isaac's place on the alter. Even though "the evil one," depicted as a horned devil, tries to prevent the ram from reaching Abraham, God intervenes, stopping Abraham from sacrificing his son. The ram is slaughtered instead and his soul flies up to heaven and becomes part of the Temple alter, the foundation of Jerusalem, the harp of Kind David, and the cape of the prophet Elijah. The sophisticated language of Gerstein's retelling, the complex themes, and the scary illustrations limit the audience to older readers already familiar with the story of the Akeda. But, the book is a wonderful way to spark a discussion of midrashim, the role of animals in our world, and the Jewish values of obedience to God and saving human life (pikuach nefesh). As with other biblically based books by Mordicai Gerstein (The Shadow of a Flying Bird, Jonah and the Two Great Fish, Queen Esther, the Morning Star, and Noah and the Great Flood), the text reads fluidly aloud and the fanciful illustrations include many intricate and hidden details such as the hands and face of God in the clouds.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Experienced Editor VINE VOICE on October 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
One of the most difficult stories in the Bible is that of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22). The tale is familiar to Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and people of faith have wrestled for thousands of years with how God could ask a man to kill his son. Isaac was spared, of course, once Abraham demonstrated his willingness to obey God in all things, and God then provided a ram as a substitute sacrifice.
This complex tale seems an unlikely subject for a picture book. Yet author-illustrator Gerstein has crafted a beautiful and reverent presentation. His narrative is based on a Jewish Midrash, or legend about the Old Testament story. This version begins on the last day of Creation, when God makes a white ram, places him in the garden of Eden, and says, "Wait here until I call you."
Through the ages, the ram waits patiently until God says, "Today is the day." And then the little ram runs out of the garden, over rocky mountains, across thirsty deserts, through dark swamps and tangled jungles, resisting the temptations of "the evil one" who tries to stop him. The ram's death is delicately handled: no blood, only the ram's soul leaping joyfully into God's hands. The story doesn't end here, however, but allows Abraham to question God and recounts the many blessings that followed because of his--and the ram's--faithfulness.
Gerstein, a Caldecott Award winning artist, used pen and ink, oil paint, and colored pencil to create amazing art: childlike in its apparent simplicity yet with a subtle sophistication that rewards close study. Each page turn reveals new wonders. The devil appears in several guises, tempting and menacing at the same time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jewish Book World Magazine on December 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The gorgeous cover illustration of this book depicts a plaintive white ram in mid-leap, bounding out of paradise on his way to his mission of self-sacrifice. That sad-eyed, heroic ram spoke to me from between the loving "hands" of God, who made him "on the last day of the Creation, in the twilight of the first Sabbath". And there he is again, on the book's opening page, nestled within God's hands, floating above the newly created world, waiting for his moment.

In the peaceful beauty of the Garden of Eden, the lonely ram waits. Adam and Eve and all the other creatures have left the garden, and ages have passed, but still he waits for God to wake him and tell him that his time has come. When he is finally called upon by God, he runs from the garden and encounters the "evil one" in a variety of forms including a red devil, a field of inviting green grass, a cool, sparkling fountain, and a fierce lion. Each time the ram encounters this "evil one" he is not dissuaded from his goal: "I must save the child!", he repeats, and the tension builds. When the ram arrives at the sacred mountain, he sees a "child tied and bound on an altar, and a weeping man." "Wait!", the ram cries, "I am here! Take me!" Then God asks Abraham to remove his son from the altar, and God says, "I wanted the whole world to see your love and your trust in me, so that all people might follow your example." Abraham then frees the struggling ram, who is caught in the brambles, and the ram leaps onto the altar and speaks. "Abraham", says the proud but doomed ram, "On Rosh Hashanah, blow through one of my horns, and God will hear the sound and remember Isaac and me, the white ram that took his place.
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