CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 7 . . . . November 30, 2001
Thus begins a tale of Solomon and Sheba, a story that originates in the folklore of European Jews, Israel, Yemen and East Africa. Sheldon Oberman, Winnipeg author and story teller, has done an admirable job of blending the folklore of Europe and different versions of Solomon and Sheba from Africa to produce a story of what real wisdom is. Neil Waldman's tasteful illustrations are a treat to study.
Sheba decides to visit King Solomon, who is known as the wisest man in the world. She challenges him to build her a palace out of bird beaks, and he accepts. All the birds in the world respond to Solomon's command to come to Jerusalem, save one, the hoopoe bird. Solomon is furious that he has not been obeyed. But the bird says he was delayed searching for three questions for which the king did not have an answer. The king is intrigued and agrees to delay the hoopoe's punishment until he has tested the bird's riddles. He answers them all correctly, but he finds that each answer causes him to reflect upon his actions. His urge to fulfill Sheba's request has caused him to forget his wisdom. He overcomes his pride to realize that his true power will be found in resisting his own impulses. Solomon realizes that he must respect the needs of others - the birds - to set an example for others. Sheba understands and appreciates Solomon's decision. Together, they reward the hoopoe bird with a golden crown that it wears to this day. The story ends with the important lesson:
The beautiful illustrations recreate the ancient setting of the story. Children will find themselves studying the designs, the shapes, and colours. Muted mid-eastern and geometric designs frame the text and richly coloured acrylic paintings. Since the plot does not have much action, illustrator Neil Waldman uses close-ups to intimate the deep thought and reflection of the king, queen and the birds, inviting the reader into the relationship between the characters. The picture used for the dust jacket represents the lesson learned: the wise leaders look upon the small bird which teaches them their valuable lesson.
The Wisdom Bird will be a welcome addition to any school collection, or form a favorite part of a child's home library. For more information on this book, visit Oberman's web site at: http://www.sheldonoberman.com/.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.