A Donkey Reads

Muriel Mandell, illus. by Andr%C3%A9 Letria. Star Bright (www.starbrightbooks.com), $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59572-255-3; $6.95 paper ISBN 978-1-59572-256-0
Mustafo, a poor Anatolian villager, has to find something to give the new Mongol leader, who demands tribute. A broken-down donkey is all he has, and he knows he'll get beaten for such a pitiful offering. But Nasreddin Hoca, the village wise man, interrupts the leader's tirade: "I believe that I can teach him to read," Nasreddin says. Nasreddin delivers on his promise, too. His donkey-training secret (barley between the pages to get the donkey to turn the pages with his tongue) is revealed to readers, who will thoroughly enjoy watching the Mongol leader get his comeuppance. Portuguese artist Letria paints figures in a naïf, folk-art style nicely suited to this traditional story; their movements are puppetlike, yet their expressions are convincing, even moving. Full-bleed spreads alternate with entertaining spot illustrations of rows of villagers or miniatures of their offerings to the Mongol leaders: "a huge bag of grain, a fat rooster, a basket of apricots." Mandell's (the No-Sweat Science series) retelling is a fine introduction to the dozens of tales about Nasreddin, the legendary 13th-century wise man. Ages 5–8. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/28/2011
Release date: 05/01/2011
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 978-1-59572-256-0
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