Friday, August 16, 2013

Nasreddine retold by Odile Weulersse, illustrated by Rebecca Daubremer

Here is another wonderful folktale from the Middle Ages, believed to have originated in Turkey, which has a moral that so appropriate for today's world.  But isn't timelessness the beauty of folktales.

Every week, young Nasreddine and his father, Mustafa, take their donkey and bring their wares to the market to sell.

When they bring their dates to market, a vizier tells Mustafa he is lazy for riding on the donkey and making his son walk.  His words cause Nasreddine to return home in shame.

When they bring the sheep's wool to the market, Nasreddine devises a plan so that he can ride the donkey.  Once again, they face criticism from a group of women who call Nasreddine disrespectful to his father by making him walk.  Again, Nasreddine returns home in shame.

It is time to sell the chickens at the next market day, and this time Nasreddine insists both he and his father ride the donkey along with the caged birds.  Yet again, there is criticism, this time for being so cruel to the donkey by making it carry so much.  Nasreddine returns home again in shame.

A few days later, when it is time to sell the watermelons at the market, Nasreddine suggests that he and his father walk and the donkey would only have to carry the fruit.  But, soon they are being followed by a group of laughing kids.  One finally asked why they are walking and not riding.  Another answers it is because they are stupid,  Once more, shame visits Nasreddine.

Finally, on the next market day, Nasreddine suggests to his father the they carry the donkey so that no one can make fun of them.  But has Mustafa had enough of Nasreddine's ideas?  Is it finally time to impart some fatherly wisdom to Nasreddine?   Yes, it is and that is just what he does.

Here is a wonderful folktale that not only speaks to its young readers, but also to any adult readers reading to children.  Mustafa has the patience to watch as Nasreddine's attempts to solve the problem of weekly criticism, waiting until the moment is right for his son to hear what he says.  And Nasreddine's attempts to deal with the weekly comments and laughter he and his father are the brunt of add some humor to this tale, so it is an easier one for children to take in.

There is a note at the end of the book that although the story has been retold and probably changed over time, Nasreddine still offers its reader wisdom and delight, and that is so true in this version of the story.

I loved the mix of bold and soft watercolor used in the different illustrations and the way Daubremer used a white background and vivid bright colors to highlight Nasreddine and Mustafa at home, then switched to full page illustrations in more muted colors when they were heading to the market.  The palette of colors used give the story a definite Middle Eastern atmosphere.

A new edition of Nasreddine has come out this year (2012), but the one I read was from 2005, but they seem to be identical.

This book is recommended for readers age 4+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL


  1. Sounds charming, such an exotic setting for watercolors and the dusty desert. Folktales teach the best lessons.

  2. Your reviews are always so interesting I want to read everything to write about!


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