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.
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.