A canny merchant outwits a would-be thief trying to steal his jewels, then with help from the Bible gives him a greater treasure.
First issued by a small publisher in 1999 with illustrations by Lad Odell, the story pairs wealthy Raj, on an annual journey to visit his family, and a light-fingered fruit seller, Mohan, who is bent on stealing his precious cargo. Though Mohan searches Raj’s bags every night along the way, he finds nothing—because, as Raj at last reveals, he had been wise to Mohan’s scheme all along and hid his jewels under Mohan’s own pillow. “When we have our eyes on other people’s treasure, we cannot see how close we are to the greatest treasure there is.” Taking out a New Testament, Raj then explains that giving his life to Jesus will make him God’s child, and the repentant thief returns to his own loving family, resolved to look to God for his future needs. Fournier’s carefully detailed depictions of generic Indian street scenes and benign-looking figures in traditional dress give the explicitly Christian message, which Zacharias has tacked on to what he claims is an old parable, an unlikely but not impossible setting.
Uri Shulevitz’s Caldecott-winning The Treasure presents a more winning take on the original theme, but Christian educators may find a use for this repurposed version. (no source note) (Picture book. 7-10)