Illustrated by a Portsmouth native

by | May 15, 2015 | Book Reviews

Retelling Genesis
by Barry Louis Polisar
Illustrations by Roni Lynn Polisar
Rainbow Morning Music:
Silver Spring, Maryland
32 pages, $7.95

Author, musician, recording artist, songwriter and entertainer Barry Louis Polisar was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. and grew up in the Washington, D.C. area. His 14 children’s books and more than 160 songs have already made him well known, especially among young kids. And, his song, All I Want is You in the opening credits of the Juno film—with appearances in commercials for Vick’s, Coca-Cola, Honda, Ikea and others—has caused his celebrity to grow.

Polisar, 60, continues to delight in his latest literary adventure, Retelling Genesis.

Though slim in size— which can be an asset—it is a thoughtfully sensitive, poetically touching and creatively engaging rendition of 13 famous stories in the Biblical Book of Genesis, the wondrous book of relationships, divine and human.

The accompanying colorful and striking illustrations by the author’s wife, Roni Lynn Polisar, who grew up in Portsmouth Va., immeasurably add to the carefully crafted words. This fruitful collaboration by a gifted family team is bound to be an appreciated addition to one’s Jewish library, as well as a catalyst for much needed conversation among Jews of all ages.

A very reasonable, yet meaningful, gift at any time of the year, Retelling Genesis’ attractive format from within and without reflects well on a religious tradition bidding us to ever probe, renew and enlarge our sacred texts, thus enhancing the rich Midrashic literature which is the hallmark of the fertile Rabbinic mind and heart searching deep into our people’s foundational stories.

Barry Polisar’s wise choice to have the characters address us in the first person, allows for the reader’s immediate, intimate and intertwined encounter in a fresh way with an account that may not be as familiar as in past generations.

This unique collection of timeless and timely lessons for Jews and Gentiles is the proud culmination of the author’s own uneven Jewish journey humbly beginning in an uninvolved Jewish home environment, and gradually moving toward deep immersion in synagogue life and learning. Instructively, the book’s project originated in a school assignment for the author and illustrator’s daughter, Sierra, who chose to “resurrect” Noah’s wife who is absent in the Bible.

The author’s following penetrating voice for Noah’s wife captures the book’s special spirit, “And through it all, I labored on, doing the hard work and never complaining… I cleaned up after those animals, watched the signs and shared the journey with him as we replanted and our sons repopulated the earth. At night I think of all that was lost forever in those dark waters; the memories come flooding back to me in a torrent of tears.”

The author, who was featured last month in The Washington Post Style Blog: How Barry Louis Polisar became the king of kids’ music, can be reached at

—Rabbi Israel Zoberman is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Chaverim.