Brief Description: 10 yo boy journeys across Israel in search of his family at a propitious time.
Geographical Setting: Bethlehem, En Gedi, Hebron, Israel, Jericho, Jerusalem, Middle East, Palestine, Palestinian Territories, Qumran, West Bank
Historical Era: Antiquity
Date Range: Year 0
Keywords: Christianity, Christmas, Dead Sea Scrolls, Essenes, Jesus, Judaism, The Bible
Original Publication: 1997
Suitable for Grades: 4-6th
Target Audience: Middle Grade
Jotham is a ten-year-old Jewish boy who runs off into the desert night after arguing with his shepherd father. When he returns the next morning he finds that the rest of his family has packed up all of their belongings and have decamped with the sheep! When he spots a fresh burial monument, he realizes they think he is dead and therefore will not be looking for him. Thus starts Jotham’s adventure to reunite with his family.
It is a dangerous road for a young, unprepared traveler. The heat and aridity of the desert are bad enough, but an encounter with a sinister caravaneer who tries to kidnap and enslave Jotham raises the stakes. He finds many good people that are willing to help him: a kindly shepherd, an Essene brother who thinks the Messiah will be coming sooner rather than later, an old married couple named Elizabeth and Zechariah with a young baby, and a friendly Persian Royal Astronomer whose caravan is following a mysterious bright star. It is not hard to guess that Jotham will end up in Bethlehem on the fateful night!
Among the many people that Jotham meets on his travels, there are three other young characters that each narrate their own stories in three other books by Ytreeide. Ishtar’s Odyssey features a boy traveling with his Persian father’s caravan. Bartholomew’s Passage is told by a Jewish orphan boy that Jotham meets at the Essene community in Qumran. And the Jewish daughter of a helpful shepherd, who also makes the journey to Bethlehem, tells her story in Tabitha’s Travels.
This book is meant to be read aloud and shared with the entire family during the Christmas Advent season, one chapter each night. At the end of each chapter is a short interpretation of Jotham’s story as related to the message of the coming messiah told in the bible, and a devotional lesson. While the intended audience is Christian, non-believers will also enjoy Jotham’s exciting and adventurous journey and the historical atmosphere of Israel in year 0. The forward contains a brief history of the Advent observation and customs. Be sure to check out the cool map of Jotham’s Journey on the author’s website. There is further information about this series on this page of the author’s website.