King Soiomon and the Queen of Sheba by Blu Greenberg and Linda Tarry Pitspopany Press, $16.95
An elegantly crafted children’s book. King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba tells a story that dates back to biblical times. This rendition, updated to appeal to children from a variety of backgrounds, comes from two more-than-qualified women: Orthodox Jewish feminist Blu Greenberg and African-American, Christian activist Linda Tarry. These authors are committed to providing strong role models for Jews, Christians, African-Americans and women, and their empathetic portrayal of both protaganists in the story does exactly that.
King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba traces the interaction between the two main characters and, symbolically, the two cultures they represent. Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, is a beautiful, charming and intelligent young woman who sets out to Solomon’s kingdom to fulfill her father’s command “to search for wisdom wherever it may be.” To test his intelligence, Makeda presents various riddles to Solomon, each of which he answers connectly. Slowly Makeda learns that Solomon’s reputation for wisdom is not exaggerated. (For his part, the King discovers that the rumor about Makeda having goat feet is unfounded.)
The characters’ initial suspicion of each other dissipates as their encounter results in increased understanding and mutual appreciation. The story also introduces Judaism in a non-judgmental yet compelling fashion. After hearing the stories of Abraham’s acceptance of one God and the Jewish Exodus from Egypt, the Queen of Sheba resolves, “I must share with the people of Sheba the lessons I have learned from you.” The authors’ portrayal of this mutually enriching relationship can serve as a wonderful tool for teaching children about respecting different cultures.