Deborah’s Tree by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Cosei Kawa is a picture book that has multiple layers. It is a book on religion and women’s history. I knew the name Deborah was biblical but did not know the history of the woman behind the story. Deborah was a female judge. In fact, the only one the bible mentions. We follow Deborah from a child to an adult. We see her visions (let us put divine intervention aside for the moment and I will say that I am curious what could have inspired them. This seems like an interesting piece of her puzzle) and how she seemed to be a fair judge that would help her people, trying to help keep peace and probably influenced us in ways we do not realize now.
The concept is simple, a biography of a person, but it did bring to light several questions and thoughts. While it might not be a “discussion piece” and might be a smidgen controversial to have religion in a classroom (though that part is not as prominent as you would think) it could be something used to show women’s history in a new light. And afterwards pulls together things as each page is more of a moment or two in the life of, there we get a larger picture (such as why she would hold court outside her home).
The art of Kawa is not always something I enjoyed. However, it was not unpleasant. I mean, the big eyes sometimes were too much, but the colors capture the time, the people, and the culture. The details work to help you see the world around our characters. They felt both computerized and water colored and they work for the tone of the book.