Review: The Melody

The Melody

by Oded Burla, illustrated by Assaf Benharroch, translated by Ilana Kurshan

Kalaniot Books, 2022

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Suzanne Grossman

A breezy melody drifts through the air, seeking another creation to share its existence. Personified elements give a variety of excuses for rejecting the connection, Mountains give no reply, stones try but fail to join the singing, river can’t slow down, crow is afraid he will be transformed, mole prefers isolation and horse fears ridicule. Melody asks itself universal questions, “What is my purpose if no one will listen? Why am I here? Whose am I?” Finally, a mother shares the melody with her baby as a lullaby. This is a lovely parable of the midrash of many nations being offered but refusing the gift and responsibilities of the Torah, with the final acceptance by the Jewish people. It is also a parable for seeking friendship in the face of rejection, as well as transmission of heritage through the generations.

The gentle digital artwork enhanced with manual textures seamlessly connects the lyrical text with the soothing mood while page turns dynamically move the story forward. Originally published in Hebrew, the careful translation maintains the flavor of the tale.

This is a wonderful book for all young children, perfect for baby’s bedtime, storytimes with the theme of friendship, and a great addition to the holiday of Shavuot.

This book meets the criteria for the Sydney Taylor Book Award. Written by Oded Burla, the founder of children’s literature in Israel, and translated with careful attention to the gentle flavor of the original Hebrew, the book has literary merit. There is positive Jewish religious and cultural content. While The Melody is based on the midrash of God offering the Torah to all nations and its ultimate acceptance by the Jewish people, the book also highlights the transmission of culture from one generation to the next, a universal concept. The language, format and illustrations are appropriate for children from birth through age 7. Significantly, while rooted in Jewish theme, diversity shines through in the illustration showing unspecified heritage of the mother and child. This is a telling for all times and for all people.

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Reviewer Suzanne Grossman has been a children’s library media specialist for over 30 years and has had the opportunity to share books, tell stories, and encourage a joy of reading with thousands of children. The moment when a child enters a story, experiences life as a character does and walks through the setting the author has created is magical. She is honored to have the opportunity to be part of the Sydney Taylor Shmooze, working to bring the best of the newest Jewish children’s literature into the lives of young readers..