Cover of O Jerusalem by Jane Yolen

O Jerusalem

A young editor at Scholastic, knowing that the 3,000th anniversary of Jerusalem was at hand (how do editors know these things????) asked me to write a book of poems about the City of Peace. I had visited it only once, way back in 1966, but as a religion minor in college knew a bit already about the Biblical background. My friend Norman Kotker, who’d written several important books on the subject, lent me his library. The book was vetted by experts in the three major religions (Jewish, Christian, Muslim) who share custody of the city’s religious sites. I was overwhelmed by the great reviews, including one who said I wrote with the beauty of the gospels. Several of the poems have been reprinted, one at the beginning of a YA novel about the Crusades. The book was on the 1997-98 Charlie May Simon Preliminary Reading List and an ALA Notable in 1997.

What reviewers have said:

  • “A collection of original poems forms a deeply felt tribute to a city that for three thousand years has been a holy place for three major religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Reflecting the history, beliefs, and legends of all three faiths, the poems are accompanied by informative background notes and glowing acrylic paintings.” — Horn Book
  • “Jerusalem’s holiness, history, and ageless appeal to three religions has been captured in these wonderful poems. “Abraham’s Message to the Terah Clan” reads like a psalm and is as lovely. … Thompson is a superb draftsman who also handles color eleoquently. As each illustration is unique, so is each poem. Together they form an integral unit and provide a fitting celebration of the Jerusalem 3000 anniversary.” — School Library Journal starred review
  • “This picture book is obviously a labor of love, the expression of a heart that hopes ardently for the promise that the “City of Peace” should be … The illustrations by the award-winning Thompson are gorgeous and compelling, making this a wonderfully complete package.” — NAPRA Review
  • “The poems thoughtfully explore moments of history and myth. Thompson’s pictures … really call to you. A book that will linger in your memory.” — Booklist starred review
  • “In honor of Jerusalem’s … 3000th anniversary, Yolen offers a series of poetic meditations on its history, people, and symbolic meaning. In a tone that is reverent throughout, she gives Muslim, Christian, and Jewish traditions equal time, visiting landmarks, describing customs, and explaining in prose notes the references in each preceeding poem. … an uplifting companion to Karla Kuskin’s Jerusalem, Shining Still.” — Kirkus

Available in Scholastic hardcover and paperback.