ONE CITY, TWO BROTHERS by Chris Smith.
Illustrations by Aurelia Fronty.
A picture book for children – of all ages from 8 to 80. It's a moral tale but not a dull lecture.
Solomon the Wise, king of Israel, has a story to tell. The moral it contains is not shouted at you and needs no laboured explanation. Two brothers have brought their problem to the great adviser – for advice.
But before he can respond, they start a noisy quarrel about who should inherit the land left behind by their late father. One, probably the elder, claims his "legal rights". The other protests loudly at this "injustice".
The wise one silences them, holds their attention and tells them this story that has been handed down by word of mouth for centuries.
Two brothers have adjoining farms which are, nonetheless, situated in different villages along the riverside. One is married with children, the other is a bachelor. As we shall see, they were very different in character from the two who stood before Solomn. One day, the married brother was thinking things over and was a little worried about his brother.
As he gathered in his corn, he thought of his childless brother, pretty miserable living on his own and with no chidren to care for him in his old age. So he decided to give his brother a pleasant surprise. He picked up three sacks of corn, waited until nightfall and secretly took the corn and put it in his brother's barn. But it was he who got the surprise when he found, next morning, that the three sacks were still there!
I must have been dreaming, he thought and repeated the manoeuvre the next dark night. But the same thing occurred. Perhaps the astute reader has already guessed the reason for this seeming miracle. The other brother had had similar thoughts about his brother with a large family and far more mouths to feed.
It was only on the third night, in the broad moonlight, they met on their mutually generous journeys. This evidence of the love they bore for each other had a lasting effect. They worked together, sowing, reaping and storing together in peace and harmony.
Sickly sentimental? Not a bit of it. On the spot where they met, so it is told, The Temple was built and, later, the city of Jerusalem, today at the heart of one of the world's most bloody and intractable quarrels. Get the point? The two listening brothers did. It is to be hoped that children of all ages, and especially those at the centre of the present conflict, will get it too.