Amy-Jill Levine is Professor of Jewish Studies and New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt University; Sandy Eisenberg Sasso is Rabbi Emerita of Congregation Beth-el Zedeck and author of many award-winning children's books. Together they take on Jesus' parable of the Mustard Seed. In their note to parents and teachers, they explain their intent "to add a new understanding based on what we imagine Jesus' original audiences may have heard."
With the help of Margaux Meganck's illustrations — which charmingly convey facial expressions and gestures of expectation, doubt, hope, and wonder — readers get to witness a seed growing way beyond expectation. At first it seems that not much can be done with something so tiny: You can't take a seed for a walk or even cuddle or blow bubbles with it. Once it's in the earth, it becomes entirely invisible. But then up comes a sprout, a bush, and then — in this unique case — more than a bush, a humongous tree! The story points out how amazing this transformation is, because "mustard plants are just ordinary bushes." Readers catch the surprise, a key element of all of Jesus' parables, embedded in this ostensibly simple tale of growth.
The book closes with questions to keep in mind, ones which give the story personal relevance. "Where in the story are you? Are you like the children who have a mustard seed?" The very last line on this page of questions would make an excellent mantra to ponder throughout the year: "Everything is in place, if our imagination allows."