Cain & Abel
Finding the Fruits of Peace
Multicultural, Nondenominational, Nonsectarian Endorsed by Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish Religious Leaders
A spiritual conversation-starter for adults and children to read together.
"A very long time ago, when the world was new...two children walked in God's garden called Earth. One was named Cain, the other, Abel. They were the first children. The first brothers."
We know the story well. But what can it mean for us—and for our children—today? Award-winning author Sandy Eisenberg Sasso recasts the biblical tale of Cain and Abel in a way that invites adults and kids to a conversation about anger and our power to deal with it in positive ways.
Cain and Abel were born into God's garden called Earth, a world of bright days for working in their fields and peaceful nights to share the stories of their dreams. The first children, the first brothers, they were so much alike yet so different—Cain a shepherd, Abel a farmer.
They lived side by side, surrounded by trees where wonderful, exotic fruits of many kinds grew: everywhere orapples, rasdew, and banangerines ripened all on a single branch. The air was sweet with the smell of pinango, limeberry, and waterloupe.
But jealousy, anger, and fear took all this away. Cain and Abel's happiness came to an end, and with it, the trees' ability to grow these special fruits.
In a world often hurt by violence, this retold biblical story gives children and adults a starting point for discussing anger and its effects on those around us. By harnessing the power we have to deal with our emotions in positive ways, we can once again cultivate the fruits of peace—and change the world for the better.
Sasso (In God's Name) visits one of the more disturbing moments within the Bible, the murder of Abel by his brother, Cain, to offer children a penetrating and ultimately hopeful response. She begins by citing a midrash: in the beginning, a single tree could bear many different kinds of fruit, but with the murder of Abel, the trees went into mourning, and "only in the world to come will the trees return to their full fruitfulness." Setting the scene with descriptions of "orapples, plumelons, and banangerines," etc., the author kindles the audience's interest. Then she focuses on Cain and Abel, "two children walked in God's garden called Earth." At first the brothers are friends. Then Cain, a farmer, argues that God loves the farmer best; Abel argues that God favors shepherds like him. Tension between the brothers escalates until Cain fatally throws a rock at Abel and cannot undo the damage: "It was as if Cain had destroyed an entire world." Linking the brothers' anger to hatred to global warfare, Sasso tacitly reminds readers that peace begins with the individual. Rothenberg's folk-art-style compositions support the open, child-friendly tone, and while the portraits of the brothers can be stiff and static, her visual interpretations of abstract ideas (worlds destroyed, God speaking with Cain) are strikingly imaginative. Her final scene, a bucolic fantasy, includes a detail of two children sharing a copy of Cain and Abel, a powerful suggestion that knowledge and understanding can breed peace. Ages 5-up. (2001)