Review Blog

Jun 27 2018

Riding a donkey backwards retold by Sean Taylor and Khayaal Theatre

cover image

Ill. by Shirin Adl. Otter-Barry, 2018. ISBN 9781910959305
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Read a loud, Myths and legends, Middle Eastern stories, Trickster. Uqman Ali and Eleanor Martin set up the Khataal Theatre, devoted to performing the poetry, stories and tales from Muslim culture, many of which feature Mulla Nasruddin, a trickster whose stories figure in the myths and legends of countries from Asia to Turkey. Some of Mulla Nasruddin's tales are brought together in this book, retold by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Shirin Adl, stunningly reflecting her Iranian background. Reading these stories is an absolute treat, learning why Nasruddin sleeps in his bed in the thieves' house after his goods were stolen, or why he rides his donkey backwards, or what 'the other side' means to someone already on the other side. Beguiling, full of humour, wisdom and jokes, while begging to be read out loud, children will love the use of language and the seeming simplicity of the tales as Nasruddin tells of incidents in his life. One very short tale tells of Nasruddin walking with his umbrella. When it begins to rain he opens it and sees it is broken. A young girl asks him why he brought it if it was broken. He replied was that he didn't think it would rain.
Another story details Nasruddin's early days at school where he fell asleep when he was supposed to be drawing. When the teacher woke him and asked him to come to the front of the class and show his drawing, he only had a blank piece of paper, but he used this to explain that it is a donkey eating grass. Scoffing, the teacher was then told, that the donkey ate the grass and when it was all gone, it left.
Teamed with vibrant, energetic illustrations reflecting the Iranian motif, they are filled with detail and delight for young readers to absorb. An introduction gives readers background to the stories across the Muslin world, and a glossary at the end will help explain some of the unfamiliar words. A worthwhile addition to any school library wanting a range of stories from across cultures and religions.
Fran Knight

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