Review: A Basket Full of Figs

A Basket Full of Figs retoldby Ori Alon, illustrated by Menahem Halberstadt

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Freidele Galya Soban Biniashvili

Originally published in Hebrew, A Basket Full of Figs is a retelling of a Midrashic tale, in which Emperor Hadrian visits a quiet little village. He sees an old man, who is nearly one hundred years old, planting a fig tree sapling. Emperor Hadrian is astonished at this as he tells the old man he won’t be alive to eat the fruit from the tree. The old man tells him, “Well if I don’t, then my children will. The tree that I am planting is a gift. For years to come, children will visit this place and find a fig tree full of sweet fruit.” He goes on to explain that when he came in to the world, he found lots of trees, wonderful gifts from earlier generations. But the story doesn’t end there. Three years pass and Emperor Hadrian revisits the village, and the old man. The reader then gets to see what indeed happened with the fig tree. Although this story takes place in ancient times, Halberstadt’s illustrations include more contemporary images when depicting the future generations, and children will easily be able to relate to the pictures.

A Basket Full of Figs would make an excellent tie-in to the holiday of Tu B’Shevat, when trees are typically planted in Israel. The story also imparts a valuable lesson about providing for the next generation and would comfortably lend itself to classroom discussions about how parents provide for their children, but children can also make a difference in the world and provide for those who will come after them. All in all, with such universal messages, the book can be enjoyed by children of all faiths and religious backgrounds.

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Reviewer Freidele Galya Soban Biniashvili is the author of several books for children including THE MYSTERY OF THE LOST WATCH, I LOVE MATZAH, THERE’S A REASON WHY!, and GOLDIE AND THE GUESTS. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband, a children’s book illustrator, and their team of future writers and illustrators. (Bio illustration courtesy of Michael Biniashvili.)