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The Donkey and the Garden (Paperback)

Children's Books

By Devora Busheri, Illustrations by Menahem Halberstadt
Imprint: Green Bean Books
Pages: 32
Illustrations: Illustrated throughout
ISBN: 9781784386375
Published: 30th May 2021

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When Akiva and his wife Rachel walk past a school one morning, Akiva looks in sadly. Unlike the children, he has never learned to read or write.

‘Wouldn’t you like to go inside and learn with them?’ Rachel asks. But Akiva fears the children will laugh at him.

Rachel has an idea. She buys a donkey, plants a garden on its back and insists that she and Akiva take it with them to market. When they arrive, people laugh and point at such an unusual sight. The following morning, when Akiva refuses to join the children at school, Rachel suggests they go back to the market. Once again, the donkey attracts attention and laughter. On the third morning, Akiva refuses school again and returns to the market with Rachel and the donkey. But this time, nobody laughs or points. Instead, people come to take a closer look at the donkey, pick flowers from its back and pluck grapes from its vine. Finally, Akiva realises what Rachel has been trying to tell him.

Akiva enrols in the school. He soon gets over his nerves and the children get used to his presence. He studies so hard that eventually he becomes a great scholar – the famous Rabbi Akiva who is still revered today.

This is a beautifully told story, based on Midrash Hagadol, about how Rabbi Akiva overcame his fear of embarrassment to go from humble shepherd to legendary Jewish leader, with a little help from his clever wife and a donkey with a garden on its back.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What a beautiful tale! The story is based on a real Jewish rabbi and gently teaches children that it is never too late to learn. The illustrations are as gorgeous as the writing.

NetGalley, Morris Morgan

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book was so gentle and sweet, it nearly took my breath away. The artwork was beautiful and gentle, the story was sweet and based off of a real couple and situation re: he was illiterate until the age of 40, but then he learned how to read and write, studied Jewish scripture and became a very important and respected Rabbi both in his time and now.

I love the moral behind the story, to not give up and that no matter what age we are, we are never too old to attempt our dreams, even if people laugh at us.

I am not Jewish and not well-versed in Jewish leaders past or present, so this book made me Wiki Rabbi Akiva to see if this story is true, and the kernel of it, the fact that he was poor and illiterate, married a woman from a wealthy family who kicked her out after she did so and who encouraged her husband to learn to read and write and who eventually did and became a respected Rabbi are all true. The donkey with a garden on its back might be a slight stretch, but it is poetic and beautiful and gets the point across nicely.

You don't need to be Jewish to understand and appreciate this book, though I may have missed some deeper more religious meaning, not being from the religion or culture. It is beautiful and I loved it and I highly recommend it. 5, never give up, stars!

NetGalley, Jennifer Sabol

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book, and it would be just as great for children with a great message.
The message is that it's okay to do something different and even if people laugh at you at first, they will soon grow tired of laughing at you and you will be accepted.

NetGalley, Kirstie Jones

The story is based on Rabbi called Akiva. Well for me the character and legend Akiva was new and so for my child, and that might be the reason we enjoyed it. Akiva was illiterate when he grew up. He had a secret wish to read and write but was shy as only kids go to school. His wife understood his problem and used a unique method to make Akiva understand that unusuality is temporary with time people accept and appreciate differences.

The book gives a wonderful message to kids. Special those who feel shy about their weakness or slow learning abilities. I read this book twice to my kids.

NetGalley, Vishnu Chevli

I really enjoyed this one! The art was absolutely beautiful, especially the garden elements, with a lot of bright colours. Loved how the pages aren't completely covered with colour, but certain elements are. I had never heard this story before, so I'm glad I've gotten to experience it!

NetGalley, Marte Olsen

The Donkey and the Garden is a cute story that teaches children that to never give up and that you are never to old to learn. The illustrations are beautiful. I enjoyed the message in the book. This book would be awesome to read in a classroom or story time setting.

NetGalley, Leslie Hartman

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Gorgeously illustrated version of the traditional tale of Rachel, the wife of Rabbi Akiva. Prior familiarity with either Rachel or Rabbi Akiva is not necessary and while the story comes from Jewish tradition, the message (that you are never too old to learn a new skill) is secular and applicable to readers of every identity and religion.

NetGalley, Amy Tureen

The Donkey and the Garden is a beautifully illustrated children's book that teaches children about the importance of never giving up on your hopes and dreams and not being afraid to try something new.
This story is based on a true story of a Jewish Rabbi called Rabbi Akiva, who was a scholar and became one of the most influential scholars in Jewish history. The story is set when he was 40 years old and longed to be able to read and write. I especially enjoyed the garden on the donkeys back and the significance to the story.

NetGalley, Natalie Horman

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I thought that the illustrations in this book were wonderful, they suit the story so well and I loved the detail and how they brought the story to life.

The Donkey and the Garden is a lovely story and I really enjoyed the characterisation, the author has done a brilliant job. The story shows the importance of education at any age and even though Akiva was embarrassed at the outset, Rachel showed him how that would soon be forgotten and he was able to follow his dreams.

A really positive story, well written and well told - 5 stars - very highly recommended!

NetGalley, Donna Maguire

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is such an important historically relevant story which tells the importance of adult education for those adults who had missed out a chance of getting to learn how to read and write.

I love the presentation of the story. The characters are represented so well in this short story.

The illustrations are amazing!

NetGalley, Reading Tamishly

About Devora Busheri

Devora Busheri is a writer, editor, and translator. She is the author of a number of books for children including The Abba Tree, My Sister is Sleeping and In the Jerusalem Forest. Devora lives in Jerusalem with her husband and their four children.


About Menahem Halberstadt

Menahem Halberstadt studied painting and drawing under the instruction of the famous Israeli artists Leonid Balaklav and Aram Gershuni. Following this, he studied animation at the Bezalel Academy and graphic design at Hadassah Academic College, Jerusalem. He works as an illustrator with a number of publishing houses in Israel and lives in Israel with his wife and four children.

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