The Moses Basket
Jenny Koralek and Pauline Baynes
I have a younger brother, and my daughter does, too: we spend a lot of time these days talking about what it means to be the big sister, and the responsibility she has to love and protect her little brother. I can’t wait for her to get home from preschool today so I can read her The Moses Basket. My hunch is that she will love it – I did, the moment I picked it up.
The Moses Basket is the story of – well, Moses in the basket. Pharaoh decrees all Hebrew babies must die, so Moses’ mother hides him in a basket among the rushes. It’s such powerful moment in Israel’s history: the prophet who will lead them to the Promised Land is a helpless, threatened baby. However, what I particularly loved about Jenny Koralek’s telling is that the focus is on Miriam, Moses’ sister. Her bravery and conviction about her brother’s special role help her mother set the baby afloat, so that he will be found by the Egyptian princess.
The telling is simple and taut, and even though I know the story inside out, I still felt swept up into Miriam’s courage and joy. And I loved the illustrations, by Pauline Baynes (whose work you’ve enjoyed if you own any of the old-school, properly numbered copies of The Chronicles of Narnia). They’re spare, but full of life, vibrance, and motion.
I wished initially that the book was more explicitly theological. There’s no mention of God, or his providential work to bring Moses into Pharaoh’s household. But then I went back and re-read Exodus 2, and it’s not there, either. Later, of course, we know Miriam as a full-grown prophetess rejoicing before God with a tambourine in hand. And suddenly it’s clear how God used her young bravery and wit for the deliverance of his people. The Moses Basket ends with Miriam dancing and singing over the return of her brother – and we know. God’s great work of Exodus has begun, with a baby and a faithful little girl at its heart.