The story of Moses, hidden among the reeds and found by a princess of Egypt, is one many of us remember hearing from earliest childhood. We know that from the moment of his rescue, Moses went to live at the pharaoh’s palace, accompanied by his own mother as his wet nurse at the suggestion of his sister. The mention of the sister is often overlooked; it is this character that Julius Lester has chosen to illuminate in his young adult novel. Almah, sister of Mosis (as he is called here), goes with her mother and younger brother when they are taken to the palace, and it is Almah who is most accepting of the turn her life has made. Though she has always felt herself to be different than her family, the speed and ease of her transition into Egyptian life amazes not only Almah but the pharaoh as well. So taken with Almah is he that he claims her as his own daughter, but will she be able to fully leave her Hebrew past behind her?
Lester’s novel moves between Almah’s point of view and Mosis’s, though it might have flowed more smoothly had it remained with just Almah’s. The conflict Mosis feels for his Hebrew family and his Egyptian life is heartfelt, and Lester shows us an unsure young man whose life has been shaped by the three women who have raised him. Almah is a strong personality who finds her own way but at major cost to her familial ties; I enjoyed reading her point of view and felt she spoke clearly and engagingly. Lester went to great lengths to show both the Hebrew and Egyptian sides, and I very much enjoyed this different take on a story I felt I knew well. This is a short, easy book; quite well-written and thought-provoking.