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Ever wonder how Hebrew, a language long used only for Jewish religious services, became the national language of Israel? And how it developed words for things like ice cream?

The Language of Angels: A Story About the Reinvention of Hebrew by Richard Michelson, with illustrations and calligraphy by Karla Gudeon, explains it all: How a scholarly man named Eliezer Ben-Yehuda decided that he and his wife and child, a boy named Ben-Zion, would only speak Hebrew, which he claimed was "the language of the angels." They were viewed as unusual by some, trouble-makers by others for a while, but eventually, Eliezer convinced many to allow their children to learn Hebrew, in part by rewarding them with ice cream.

With Hebrew being several millennia old, but used only for religious purposes, it hadn't kept up with the times. Over those years, many new developments had occurred: new foods (such as ice cream), new technology (like electricity and trains), and more had come about. Eliezer used his knowledge of other languages, including Arabic, Greek, and Latin, as well as Hebrew, in order to develop a dictionary of words.

The artwork is fabulous, the inclusion of Hebrew words and their translations is excellent, and Michelson's text is really wonderful. The story is firmly rooted in Ben-Zion's childhood, even as it's largely his father's story. It is totally relatable for children as a result of Ben-Zion being the filter through which the story is told.

In the afterword of the book, we learn more about Ben-Zion's life and studies. He later travelled to France to study at a university, where he changed his name to Itamar Ben-Avi. He would go on to champion the language called Esperanto, which was an invented language that was supposed to become a universal tongue.

This book is highly recommended for all libraries, including both public libraries and Hebrew school libraries.

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