Nasreddine by Odile Weulersse
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Lynn: Who can resist folk tales? Not me! I especially love it when tales from other countries are given a bit of interpretation yet treated with respect. Nasreddine (Eerdmans 2013) is just such a treat. A Historical Note tells us that stories about Nasreddine are told throughout the Middle East and the basic story has many versions in other cultures as well. The twist of this story is that Weulersse imagines Nasreddine as a little boy setting off with his father to sell goods at the market.
The father, Mustapha, rides the donkey with Nasreddine walking behind. As they come into town, they meet a vizier who exclaims
“Look what we have here! A lazy man who lounges and makes his son slosh through the mud!”
Nasreddine is embarrassed at being made fun of and wants to go home. “As you wish, my son,” says his father. The next week Nasreddine invents a twisted ankle so he can ride the donkey. Of course, the critics weigh in again. This time it is because the child rides while his father walks behind. And so, with the traditional repetition and rhythms, the tale unfolds. The father gently guides his son to the understanding of the importance of making his own decisions and not to relay on other people’s words.
For me the best part of this charming book are Rebecca Dautremer’s whimsical illustrations. The figures are elongated, drawing the eye up the page, the colors are rich and the perspectives are wonderful, some from above and some from a child’s level. There’s lots more to say but I’ll stop so Cindy can have a turn except to say that the donkey is one of my favorite characters and he never says thing.
Cindy: My first experience with the Nasruddin character was hearing a story told by Laura Simms at the National Storytelling Festival years ago. Count me as a fan of good folktale retellings. Eerdmans (a local independent publisher we happen to love) has published a treat in this delightful combination of story and illustration. If you are headed to ALA, look them up in the exhibit hall and take a peek at this book; it’s sure to be on display. And while I don’t have time to say much more this morning as Lynn is waiting for me to pick her up for our drive to Chicago to join the festivities, I have to add one thing. Folktales take us back to earlier times and the surprise processing of this public library copy that Lynn picked up did the same for me. I was so shocked to see the pocket glued in the back of this new book that I had to take a photo. The next time I get to historic Hackley Public Library in Muskegon I will have to ask them about this processing.
Looking forward to seeing many Bookends readers in Chicago! Go Blackhawks!