Shim­ri’s Big Idea

Elka Weber (auth.), Inbal Gigi Bousi­dan (illus.)

  • Review
By – September 2, 2019

In the peren­ni­al­ly arid Mid­dle East, bod­ies of water and easy access to them have always been essen­tial and high­ly val­ued resources. This was espe­cial­ly true in ancient times when they did not have the tech­ni­cal know-how of today, which alle­vi­ates, although does not ful­ly elim­i­nate, the chal­lenge. Cities need­ed safe and acces­si­ble sources of water in order to sur­vive and thrive. The Gihon Spring was the water source for ancient Jerusalem but it was locat­ed out­side the guard­ed bound­aries of the city and was, there­fore, nei­ther con­ve­nient nor secure. Invad­ing ene­mies were able to inter­fere with the sup­ply and deny the res­i­dents this essen­tial resource. Hezeki­ah, the king of Judea, need­ed to be cre­ative and is cred­it­ed for exe­cut­ing an engi­neer­ing mar­vel, much admired even in mod­ern times, which was well ahead of its time — a tun­nel which brought this bad­ly need­ed resource into the city lim­its and so pro­vid­ing sus­te­nance and hope.

In this pic­ture book recount­ing of the bib­li­cal tale, a young boy named Shim­ri, aware of the need for a secure water sup­ply and obser­vant of the nat­ur­al world around him, has a bright idea. Although only a child, Shim­ri has always been taught that big ideas can come from small mouths.” He cau­tious­ly approach­es the king and presents his solu­tion to the prob­lem. Shim­ri has imag­ined the con­struc­tion of a tun­nel which can divert water from the spring and chan­nel it into the Pool of Siloam inside the ancient city. Togeth­er, Shim­ri and Hezeki­ah refine and per­fect the plan. Dig­ging begins from both direc­tions and a sim­ple but inge­nious method is used to ensure that the dig­ging crews meet up pre­cise­ly so the tun­nel halves would prop­er­ly join up, allow­ing the water to flow freely.

King Hezeki­ah is pre­sent­ed as open-mind­ed and amenable to new ideas, and Shim­ri as imag­i­na­tive and cre­ative — both essen­tial role-mod­els for young read­ers of today. Togeth­er they save ancient Jerusalem, enabling it to devel­op into the vibrant reli­gious, cul­tur­al, and res­i­den­tial cen­ter it is now.

Mod­ern-day tourists flock to Hezeki­ah’s tun­nel, and mar­vel at the bril­liant plan which allowed the suc­cess­ful flow of water into the city. The idea may not real­ly have orig­i­nat­ed in the mind of a young boy named Shim­ri, but the tun­nel is still a tes­ta­ment to a king who had the fore­sight and imag­i­na­tion to make the idea, no mat­ter its source, into a world-renowned reality.

Gen­tly col­ored and very detailed art gives the read­er a sense of being in Jerusalem dur­ing ancient times. This is an excel­lent intro­duc­tion to a piece of bib­li­cal his­to­ry and would be a par­tic­u­lar­ly fine book for fam­i­lies to share while prepar­ing for a trip to Israel.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

Discussion Questions