Thursday, February 17, 2011

A sage full of clever wit and tricks

Folktales are a unique way to discover, explore, thus appreciate other cultures beyond time and space. Their narratives are usually simple, often accompanying moral lessons. Yet, they observe acutely the very core of human conflicts, but always bring resolutions through wit, humor, and clever tricks. And such a humour never fails to radiate in human hearts. Although not well-known to Western readers, Nasreddin Hoca, an imam, a teacher, a judge who lived in the 13th century in Anatolia (now Turkey) is a widely celebrated historical figure. The tales of him are widely read in Turkey and the Middle East. He is a sage, yet full of wit, a down-to-earth figure who brings justice (or compromise) with laughs and giggles. In A Donkey Reads, Muriel Mandell retells a story of this witty sage for children from preschool to early graders. This time, Nasreddin teaches a donkey to read to save a poor villager, Mustafo.
During the Mongol rule in Turkey, there lives a poor villager named Mustafo, who must give a gift of tribute to his tyrannical Mongol ruler. The only thing he can offer to the ruler is his old donkey. But when he presents it to the Mongol, the Mongol is furious and threatens him with death. Then, Nasreddin Hoca, the wise village man, assures the Mongol that this donkey is not ordinary, and he will soon teach it to read. A month later, indeed, the donkey reads a thick book by turning pages so quickly. What is Nasreddin’s trick to teach a donkey to read?

A Donkey Reads is lushly decorated with Andre Letria’s illustrations that are deep and rich in acrylic color, and detailed in every expression, even in the mice, that young readers find it fascinating. The Junior Library Guild’s pick.

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