One City, Two Brothers
One City, Two Brothers is a folktale about the founding of the city of Jerusalem, which has been passed down by three major religions – Christianity; Judaism and Islam. The story is told by King Solomon to two brothers who are bickering over the land that they recently inherited from their father. In the tale that King Solomon recounts, instead of bickering the two brothers work peacefully side by side on the land they inherited. In addition, when there is a year of abundance, both brothers come up with the same plan. Each brother wants the other brother to get extra harvest. The married brother wants to give his unmarried brother more of the harvest so he can save up money to live on in his old age. The single brother wants to give his married brother more of the harvest so he can feed all of his children. Of course, after several days, they each discover what the other is doing when they meet on the path between their homes. And the spot where they meet is thought to be where the city of Jerusalem is now located.
There are some very fundamental lessons to be gleaned from this story. One of the biggest takeaways for me was the fact that this story is a folk tale shared by three religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam. This illustrates just how much we share common as part of the greater human race. The importance of family is also central to this story. During this holiday season and at this point in our country’s history, the lesson of thinking of others is especially fitting and significant. I especially like this quote for the starred review of this tale in Book List: “…this picture book beautifully captures the spirit of brotherhood and gives both readers and listeners hope for what could be if people thought more about one another than about themselves”.
Besides these ethical lessons, this story can be used in the classroom to teach some common curriculum themes. The location of Jerusalem, where Europe meets Asia and Asia meets Africa lends itself to an interesting geography lesson. The history of Jerusalem would be a great place to start when teaching about ancient civilizations since several of them occupied Jerusalem through the ages. King Solomon was known for his dispensation of wisdom as a well revered judge. This would provide a great opportunity to study about laws and justice systems as well as learning about inspirational leaders such as King Solomon. The conflict over modern Jerusalem would be a good place to start a discussion with older children about the current political situation in the Middle East.
Adding value to this book are the gorgeous illustrations and the information included in the back matter. The artwork, presented in in soothing colors with soft blurry lines, beautifully depicts how the region would have looked like during the time of the story. The end notes include information about Jerusalem and the three religions that share that city as a holy place. The conflict over Jerusalem that still continues today is also mentioned. Also, information about the origins of this folk tale is provided.
I highly recommend One City, Two Brothers: A Story from Jerusalem to share as a read aloud with your students and your family, especially during this time of year.
EDUCATOR’S Tips, Correlations, Connections, Resources
IB Themes/Units of Inquiry:
Where we are in Place and Time: Ancient Civilizations
How the World Works: Seasons
How We Express Ourselves: Fairy Tales and other stories
How We Organize Ourselves: How Communities and Cities Function – including Government and Laws.
Sharing the Planet: Lives and Teachings of Inspirational Figures – King Solomon.
IB Profile/Attributes: Caring; Knowledgeable; Thinkers; Principled; Open Minded; Balanced; Appreciation; Commitment; Empathy; Integrity; Respect; Tolerance.
Diversity: Christians, Jews and Muslims
Geography: Jerusalem, where Europe meets Asian and where Asia meets Africa
Author: Chris Smith
Illustrator: Aurelia Fronty
Publisher: Barefoot Books
Publication Date: September 30, 2015
Ages: All ages
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