Sunday, June 25, 2023

Q&A with Jacqueline Jules




Jacqueline Jules is the author of the new children's picture book Moses and the Runaway Lamb. Her many other books include the Zapato Power series. She lives on Long Island, New York.


Q: What inspired you to write Moses and the Runaway Lamb?


A: Moses has long been on my list of biblical figures I wanted to write about. I’ve written other books inspired by the Bible: Abraham’s Search for God, Sarah Laughs, Benjamin and the Silver Goblet, Miriam in the Desert, Drop by Drop: A Story of Rabbi Akiva.


But finding the right story about Moses took me some time. My first attempts didn’t quite work for young children in a picture book.


The midrash of Moses and the lamb in Shemot Rabbah 2:2 is inherently child-friendly. Young readers can chant along each time the little lamb bleats, “Baa! Baa!” They can identify with a small animal who has wandered away and worry about its safety.


In this midrash from rabbinic literature, Moses demonstrates his ability to be a caring leader by his kindness to a small animal.


Q: What do you think Eleanor Rees Howell’s illustrations add to the story?


A: I love Eleanor’s use of color in this book. Her palette of swirling earth tones adds depth to the story. She made the book very engaging to the eye.  


Q: The Kirkus review of the book called it “A well-told story of an act of biblical and historical significance.” What do you think of that description, and what do you hope kids take away from the book?

A: I was very pleased that the Kirkus reviewer considered this story historically significant. Moses is remembered and extolled as a powerful and influential leader. Seeing Moses as a shepherd gently carrying a small animal back to her mother reveals his compassionate nature. I hope Moses and the Runaway Lamb will introduce young readers to Moses as a person.


Q: Did you need to do any research to write the book, and if so, did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: Whenever I write a story based on traditional literature, I look up as many versions of the story I can find. Shemot Rabbah 2:2 is a classic story about Moses so it could be found on the internet and print collections I had on my bookshelves.


According to this midrash, Moses was chosen to lead the Israelites out of Egypt on the day he rescued the runaway lamb. I love the idea that one of the most influential leaders of the Jewish people was judged by his kindness towards animals.


A midrash story is generally very brief. To retell a midrash as a picture book requires filling in details not provided. Moses combed the countryside looking for a lost lamb. Who was watching the rest of the sheep while Moses was gone?


Before I felt comfortable having Moses leave a dog in charge of his flock in my book, I did some research to be sure dogs were used to herd sheep in biblical times.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Right now, I am working on a new book in the Zapato Power series. Zapato Power #14: Freddie Ramos Sees in the Dark, which will be released in 2024.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I have a new book coming out in August 2023 from Bushel & Peck. Smoke at the Pentagon: Poems to Remember is a collection of poems telling the stories of young people who experienced September 11th in Arlington, Virginia.  


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Jacqueline Jules.

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