Moses in Egypt

Book: Moses in Egypt
Author: Lynne Reid Banks
Illustrator: Tony Ross
Publisher: Puffin, 1998
ISBN-13: 978-0606156851 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0606156852 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0141302171 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0141302178 (Paperback)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 10 – 14 (I would say more for 13 and up)
Rating: *** 3 stars (FAIR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Disclosure: Many publishers and/or authors provide copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion. Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated to a library. No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.
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Banks, Lynne Reid. Moses in Egypt (published in 1998 by Puffin Books, an imprint of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, a division of the Penguin Group, 345 Hudson St., New York City, NY 10014). Subtitled “A novel inspired by The Prince of Egypt and the Book of Exodus,” this book is more than just a junior novelization of the well known DreamWorks film. We saw the movie and checked the related novelized story book by Jane Yolen out of the library. Author Lynne Reid Banks is best known for her books about The Indian in the Cupboard. Moses in Egypt is intended to cover the life of Moses from his birth, through his youth as a prince of Egypt, his running away, and his years in the wilderness, to his return to Egypt, his call for Pharaoh to let Israel go, and the Exodus. If one is looking for a well-written story that blends some elements of the Biblical account into a fictional setting, this is it. Banks says, “In creating the story of The Prince of Egypt, certain historical and artistic license was taken. Such creative liberties have been taken here as well. This novel is not intended to be identical to the film in all matters of character, dialogue, and themes, nor is it intended to be a literal depiction of the biblical story. The author brings her own artistic vision to the work, and has used this vision to develop her own interpretation of the story.”

I understand that. However, the problem with books like this is that in spite of such warnings, a lot of low-information readers will still conclude that “this must be the way it really was.” One person called it “a powerful, in-depth version of Moses and his leading the people of Israel out of enslavement to the Egyptians.” Uh, not really. Yes, a few of the events described actually happened, but the vast majority of the “in-depth version” is purely the author’s imagination. Some of these imaginations are within the realm of possibility, but others are in direct conflict with the account of Scripture. For example, the book pictures the incident where Moses kills the Egyptian as purely an accident. When Moses leaves Egypt, the book has him a reckless teenager or at most an immature, young twenty-something, whereas the Bible gives his age as forty years old. The book says that he was in the wilderness for fifteen years, but it was actually forty years. And the book describes Aaron as initially hostile after Moses returns to Egypt, while in the Bible Aaron actually goes out into the wilderness to meet Moses and returns with him as his biggest supporter.

Also, one reviewer wrote, “The book uses words I wouldn’t want a child to read.” I assume that this is referring to passages such as the following. “She would be his first woman, and it was time for that, but still he felt unready. He wished she had been the usual thing, some little slave girl for whom he need feel nothing but casual desire.” And I would agree with the objection. Furthermore, this statement refers to the captured Midianite whom he later meets again in the desert following her escape, another scene which is wholly without any Biblical foundation, and who ultimately becomes his wife. There are also references to drinking wine and beer, and in one scene Pharaoh is tipsy if not drunk. If a person is interested in a highly fictional book that is very loosely based on the life of a Biblical character written in exciting, page-turning fashion, this may be all right. However, it is important to keep in mind that it is NOT necessarily a completely factual story. The biggest benefit to reading the book is that it does reiterate the Biblical themes of God’s love for His people, His faithfulness to His promises of mercy for those who serve him above all others, and His insistence on absolute obedience. However, some may well look askance at taking such artistic license with a Bible story.

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