The Mag­ic Pome­gran­ate: A Jew­ish Folktale

Penin­nah Schram; Melanie Hall, illus.
  • Review
By – March 2, 2012
This entry in the On My Own Folk­lore” series pro­vides a sim­pli­fied ver­sion of a well-known folk­tale. Three broth­ers chal­lenge each oth­er to seek out amaz­ing mag­i­cal objects, and they find a crys­tal ball, a fly­ing car­pet, and a mag­i­cal pome­gran­ate. The crys­tal ball reveals a dying princess; the broth­ers fly to her on the car­pet, and she is healed by par­tak­ing of the mag­i­cal fruit. She mar­ries the broth­er who pro­vid­ed the pome­gran­ate, for he sac­ri­ficed his mag­i­cal object for her sake and embod­ied the Tal­mu­dic teach­ing that the great­est mitz­vah is per­formed by the per­son who gives of him­self or gives up some­thing of his own. The sto­ry is some­times told with a mag­i­cal apple or potion, but Schram used a pome­gran­ate for its greater Juda­ic res­o­nance (accord­ing to tra­di­tion, a pome­gran­ate has 613 seeds, cor­re­spond­ing with the 613 mitzvot in the Torah). While the text has a folk­loric flow, the easy read­er for­mat of the book makes the style seem rather heavy and over­ly for­mal. It does not have the eco­nom­i­cal poet­ry of a con­trolled vocab­u­lary read­er. The col­or­ful mixed­me­dia illus­tra­tions are beau­ti­ful, but do not pro­vide illus­tra­tive clues to sup­port the text, as one would expect in an easy read­er. Per­haps this sto­ry should have been for­mat­ted as a pic­ture book, since it does not seem to fit com­fort­ably into the easy read­er cat­e­go­ry that it resem­bles phys­i­cal­ly (size, bind­ing, font, etc.). The mixed mes­sages of its for­mat and style may cause it to have dif­fi­cul­ty find­ing its audi­ence. Ages 6 – 8.

Read­ing Guide

Hei­di Estrin is librar­i­an for the Feld­man Chil­dren’s Library at Con­gre­ga­tion B’nai Israel in Boca Raton, FL. She is a past chair of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Award Com­mit­tee for the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries.

Discussion Questions