Story Book Interprets the Jonah Tale for Children

Jonah by Tammar Stein, illustrations by Sabina Hahn; Agawam, Massachusetts: PJ Publishing © 2021; Library of Congress Control Number 2021950838, 28 pages, $8.99.

SAN DIEGO – Who can resist adding a little bit here or there in retelling a well-known Bible story? That’s what Tammar Stein did as she retold the biblical tale of Jonah in a PJ Library book recently issued for 7-year-old children.

In Stein’s charming version of the story, illustrated by Sabina Hahn, Jonah is a teacher, whose class of elementary school students meets under a tree. He told the children stories, brought them snacks of figs and raisins, and gently reproved naughty behavior. He was such a good teacher that God decided he would be ideal for teaching the people of Nineveh {Mosul, in modern-day Iraq) that they must change their evil ways.

From this point, the story pretty much follows the biblical tale. Jonah runs in the opposite direction to a ship sailing for Tarshish[possiblymodern-daySpain}buthecannotescapeGodTheshipistossedinanunseasonablestormforwhichJonahrealizesheistoblameThesailorscomplywithhisrequesttothrowhimoverboardsotheshipwon’tsinkGodsendsalargewhale{agreatfishinthebiblicaltext}whichswallowsJonahwholeForthreedaysJonahsitsandpraysinthewhale’ssmellyinsidesuntilheisdisgorgedontheshoreChastenedhetravelstoNinevehandurgesthepeopletorepentwhichtheydo[possiblymodern-daySpain}buthecannotescapeGod TheshipistossedinanunseasonablestormforwhichJonahrealizesheistoblame Thesailorscomplywithhisrequesttothrowhimoverboardsotheshipwon’tsink Godsendsalargewhale{agreatfishinthebiblicaltext}whichswallowsJonahwhole ForthreedaysJonahsitsandpraysinthewhale’ssmellyinsidesuntilheisdisgorgedontheshore ChastenedhetravelstoNinevehandurgesthepeopletorepentwhichtheydo

God forgives the people of Nineveh, causing Jonah to become angry. He was punished simply for not wanting to carry out God’s mission, yet they were forgiven without punishment for much worse sins. So, God grew a beautiful vine (a gourd in the biblical version) under which Jonah sat with enjoyment. The next day, however, the vine withered. Seeing that Jonah was sorry for the vine, God pointed out that Jonah had not planted the vine, nor watered it, yet he felt bad. Shouldn’t God similarly love and be kind to the people of Nineveh?

Having done his job, and having learned a big lesson, Jonah returned home and started teaching again. He taught his students three lessons. Apologize when you make a bad choice. Take care of each other. The third lesson was funny, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. Read it with your children or grandchildren and enjoy!

Donald H. Harrison is editor emeritus of San Diego Jewish World. He may be contacted via [email protected]

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