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February 02, 1986|KRISTIANA GREGORY

BROTHERS, retold by Florence B. Freedman, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker (Harper & Row: $9.95; 40 pp; ages 5-8). It's no wonder some folklore survives eons, particularly when the message is as timeless and special as this one. The Hebrew legend retold here celebrates family and those who live together in harmony.

In ancient days of Israel, a farmer had two sons, Dan and Joel. As the father grew old, he divided his land in half, beseeching the boys to always help each other and to always be friends. After he dies, each son builds a house, then years later when a drought parches their wheat, they remember their father's words. Perhaps not wanting to seem boastful, each secretly finds a way to help the other, not realizing that by coincidence and out of love, they've chosen identical ways.

The story itself, set in biblical times and beautifully illustrated by award-winning Robert Andrew Parker, transcends centuries: "How good it is for brothers to live together in friendship" needn't apply just to siblings. In modern or historic terms, we can and should be generous without expectations. Philanthropy has great rewards, even if the donor chooses anonymity.

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