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Phillis Gershator





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image/honijacket

HONI'S CIRCLE OF TREES

illustrated by Mim Green

(revised edition of
Honi and his Magic Circle,
illustrated by Shay Rieger, 1979)

Jewish Publication Society, 1994




* New York Public Library Best Book, 1979
* Russian language paperback

From the book jacket:

   From the hills of ancient Israel comes a tale with a modern message: preserve the earth for future generations. Honi, a magical Jewish folk prophet, plants carob seeds for “those who come,” the future generations who will enjoy the fruit of those trees.
     Honi is a wanderer and a doer of good deeds. In fact, legend has it that Honi can talk to the Lord whenever he draws a circle on the ground and steps into it. He is known as Honi Ha-Me’aggel, the circle maker.
     One hot day, after planting carobs, Honi takes a nap--only to awaken seventy years later.
     Children will appreciate the ecological message, reinforced with delightful illustrations of a lovable Honi, surrounded by birds and animals, and, of course, trees.

A little about the book:
  
Honi and his Magic Circle was my first published children’s book and was based on a Talmudic story my father-in-law told me. May Garelik, a children’s book author herself, edited the text and gave me hope and encouragement as a writer. When the book went out of print, JPS decided to come out with a new version, a little shorter and with new illustrations. My mother, the artist Mim Green (in earlier days, Miriam Dimondstein), submitted art samples for consideration. At the time, color illustrations were too costly for the small independent publisher to produce, so black and white drawings were used instead. Here, “published” for the first time, are some of Mim’s watercolor illustrations of the man who fell asleep and woke up seventy years later to see his trees bear fruit:


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Honi planting carob seeds in the land of ancient Israel.


Honi standing in his magic circle, praying for rain.
Celebrating the sabbath.



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Honi resting in the shade... 
and sleeping--for seventy years!


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When Honi wakes up, his beard is long and white.


The carob seed he planted before his nap is now a tree!


No one believes he is really Honi. He stands in his circle and asks the Lord, "Why did You let me live beyond my time?"


And then the joyful truth comes to him. "You have given me a gift few receive. You have allowed me to see my trees bear fruit!"



From the reviews:

“With the simple eloquent message of its words and charming illustrations, Honi's Circle of Trees reminds us all, children and adults alike, of what is truly eternal--the great circle of life and love that embraces all creatures as one generation passes into another." Wilderness Magazine

"An old Talmudic story shows surprising parallels to Johnny Appleseed and Rip Van Winkle in the form of the legendary Honi, who wanders through Israel sowing seeds of the carob tree....The telling is smooth; the drawings are simple....Since most Jewish lore for children is based in an East European Yiddish setting, this will be a welcome change of pace.” Booklist