Johnson's (The Snow Wife) expressive watercolor and pastel illustrations light up this otherwise labored tale. Sparked by a snippet of Jewish folklore that claims King Solomon's ring enabled him to talk to animals, the story begins when the youthful Solomon, on a hunting party, takes pity on an injured lioness and her cubs. Years later, as a king, his wisdom and mercy have been eroded by pride; while he is on another hunting trip, an eagle reproaches him for hunting for pleasure. A lion attacks, but the king is saved by an aging lioness-the very one whose wounds he tended as a youth. MacGill-Callahan's (The Children of Lir) formal prose borders on the formulaic (e.g., ``I will keep the Sabbath here in the wilderness in the service of life''), and she focuses on moments of sudden personal transformation at the expense of a sustained narrative pitch. Johnson, on the other hand, packs an emotional punch with his sensitive portraits, their impact intensified by judicious use of light and shadow. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)
- Judy Chernak
A beautiful retelling of King Solomon's legendary understanding of animals, this book makes the point that one's gifts come from God and can be reclaimed if a person becomes unworthy. Solomon's rescue of a lioness and her two cubs was rewarded with knowledge of the language of the beasts and the birds, but the gift failed him at a crucial moment, when he was attacked by the grown cub, because he had grown arrogant and now hunted for pleasure rather than for food. The illustrations are simple, washed with majestic color, and reflect well the passing of boy into man. The book does have flaws, however. The author inexplicably mistranslates the credo of the Jews as "Know, O Israel..." instead of "Hear, O Israel..." and she describes King David's death as "called to his reward in Abraham's bosom," an anachronistically Christian expression.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4Young Prince Solomon restores a wounded lioness to health, leaving her to recover with her two cubs. Years later, after he becomes king, Solomon's power swells his pride. One day, while hunting, he is attacked by a lion, and then saved by the aged lioness who calls off her now-grown son. The man is humbled; ``And the people of Israel never again hunted for pleasure.'' Despite its virtuous intentions, this story seems contrived and predictable. The link between excessive pride and recreational hunting is tenuous; the source of Solomon's power is unspecified (God? nature? his people?), so it's not clear how his lion-encounter reminds him of it. The attractive paintings make effective use of light and mass. Simplified settings place the characters in the foreground, and the portraits of the young Solomon (in ur-tee shirt, white XL) contrast tellingly with the mature, bearded king enveloped in a massive crimson robe. The lions, too, are rather static and abstracted forms, but with appealingly expressive faces and bodies modeled by light. Neither Bible story nor, strictly, midrash, this moral tale is too muddled to be memorable, but too handsome to dismiss.Patricia (Dooley) Lothrop Green, St. George's School, Newport, RI