cover image CAIN AND ABEL: Finding the Fruits of Peace

CAIN AND ABEL: Finding the Fruits of Peace

Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, , illus. by Joani Keller Rothenberg. . Jewish Lights, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-58023-123-7

Sasso (In God's Name) visits one of the more disturbing moments within the Bible, the murder of Abel by his brother, Cain, to offer children a penetrating and ultimately hopeful response. She begins by citing a midrash: in the beginning, a single tree could bear many different kinds of fruit, but with the murder of Abel, the trees went into mourning, and "only in the world to come will the trees return to their full fruitfulness." Setting the scene with descriptions of "orapples, plumelons, and banangerines," etc., the author kindles the audience's interest. Then she focuses on Cain and Abel, "two children [who] walked in God's garden called Earth." At first the brothers are friends. Then Cain, a farmer, argues that God loves the farmer best; Abel argues that God favors shepherds like him. Tension between the brothers escalates until Cain fatally throws a rock at Abel and cannot undo the damage: "It was as if Cain had destroyed an entire world." Linking the brothers' anger to hatred to global warfare, Sasso tacitly reminds readers that peace begins with the individual. Rothenberg's folk-art-style compositions support the open, child-friendly tone, and while the portraits of the brothers can be stiff and static, her visual interpretations of abstract ideas (worlds destroyed, God speaking with Cain) are strikingly imaginative. Her final scene, a bucolic fantasy, includes a detail of two children sharing a copy of Cain and Abel, a powerful suggestion that knowledge and understanding can breed peace. Ages 5-up. (2001)