Review: The Miracle Seed

The Miracle Seed

by Martin Lemelman

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (imprint of William B. Eerdmans), 2023

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Rachel Simon

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The Miracle Seed follows the story of a Judean date seed that was germinated by two female scientists, centuries after the tree had gone extinct. 

In 1963, an archeologist named Yigael Yadin did a dig with sixteen other volunteers at the top of Masada in Israel. They discovered a clay jar that held date palm seeds that were 2,000 years old. However, instead of being immediately studied, they were locked away in a drawer until 2004 when Dr. Sarah Sallon, together with Dr. Elaine Solowey, attempted to bring the date seeds back to life. They successfully planted the seeds on Tu’Bshvuat in 2005 and they eventually grew. The scientists were able to share the pollen with others and crossed with a modern date, they able to produce strong trees and dates, starting in 2011.
Written and illustrated by Martin Lemelman, this graphic novel has strong Jewish elements. The art features much of the story of the Jews in ancient Rome as well as more modern discoveries in 2004 Israel near Masada. The Miracle Seed is a strong fit for the Sydney Taylor Book Award criteria. It has positive Jewish content and as a graphic novel, it is appropriate for the age group it is intended for. With the backmatter given, Lemelman’s graphic novel pays attention to the accurate detail needed, especially with its non-fiction material. I enjoyed learning about this piece of history that I did not know about and I bet readers will, too. 

Illustration Editor Dena Bach adds: The choice of the graphic novel format adds richness and educational value of the narrative. The realistic, detailed art enhances the science with clear, child-friendly images of the seed as it grows. The details in the illustrations also help differentiate and give context to the settings and Jewish historical eras presented in the text.

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Reviewer Rachel Simon is a Youth Services Librarian at the Newton Free Library in Newton, MA. Originally from New Jersey, she roots for the wrong teams in Boston. (Go Yankees!)