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THE WISDOM BIRD by Sheldon Oberman Kirkus Star


A Tale of Solomon and Sheba

adapted by Sheldon Oberman & illustrated by Neil Waldman

Age Range: 6 - 10

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 1-56397-816-4
Publisher: Boyds Mills

In a riddle tale based on several African and Middle Eastern antecedents, the wisest man in the world meets the wisest woman. Hearing of Solomon’s wisdom, the Queen of Sheba travels from her African home to Jerusalem to see for herself. When Solomon incautiously puts himself at her disposal, she challenges his powers by asking for a palace of birds’ beaks. At his command, all the birds of the earth surrender their beaks—except for little Hoopoe, who instead asks three questions that drive home the folly of keeping promises at the expense of doing wrong. Using restrained colors, Waldman (The Golden City, 1997, etc.) poses the serene king and queen, along with flocks of birds and other animals, against patterned backgrounds and within wide, also patterned borders; the effect is stately, full but not busy, formal rather than stiff. Together the now-even-wiser king and queen reward the hoopoe with a crown of golden feathers, which it bears to this day. The small bird’s lesson is a salutary one for children (not to mention grownups), and so is the story’s ultimate point, that “no matter who we are, we all have great things to learn. . . . ” (source note) (Picture book/folk tale. 6-10)