The Language of Angels: A Story About the Reinvention of Hebrew

illus. by Karla Gudeon. 32p. further reading. Charlesbridge. Feb. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781580896368.
K-Gr 3—Hebrew as a colloquial language died out around 200 BCE, when Jews were driven out of Jerusalem and settled in various places around the world. They learned the languages of their adopted countries and used Hebrew only for prayer. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda is credited with reinventing Hebrew as the unifying language of the Jewish people, and he dedicated his entire life to creating a modern Hebrew dictionary. Michelson tells his story through the eyes of Ben-Yehuda's young son, Ben-Zion, who grew up in Jerusalem in the 1880s. While the other children in his neighborhood spoke Yiddish, Arabic, Spanish, or Ladino, Ben-Zion's father insisted that he speak only Hebrew. He wanted Ben-Zion to be "the first child in more than two thousand years who [would] grow up speaking only the beauty of our ancient tongue." Ben-Zion helped his father create new Hebrew words for "ice cream," "bicycle," and "school"—and within one generation, modern Hebrew was born. Inspired by illuminated manuscripts, the bright, decorative watercolor illustrations in oranges and reds beautifully complement the text and integrate Hebrew letters and words throughout. A comprehensive three-page afterword provides additional information about Ben-Zion and his parents, as well as the history of Hebrew, Jerusalem, and the modern state of Israel.
VERDICT Hebrew teachers and students in Jewish schools will welcome this gorgeous new picture book about how the language developed and the impact of one person's perseverance on an entire people.

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