cover image The Hundredth Name

The Hundredth Name

Shulamith Levey Oppenheim. Boyds Mills Press, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56397-183-9

Originally published in Cricket magazine, this quiet tale set ``far back in time'' in Muslim Egypt conveys the lessons of a foreign culture and its enduring religiosity. Salah is distressed because his camel, Quadiim, seems sad. His father tries to reassure him: ""Here on earth we poor mortals must live and die knowing only ninety-nine names for Allah, our God, though there are, in truth, one hundred names, and the last one is the most important. But do we walk about dejected, head down, shuffling our feet? No! We work, we eat, we care for each other."" And, he concludes, ""We pray!"" Drawing his own interpretation, Salah fervently bids Allah to let the camel learn the 100th name. The following day, the animal stands proud and tall, a ""look of infinite wisdom"" on its face. Oppenheim's (Appleblossom) lucid, gentle storytelling conjures up the worshipful atmosphere of Salah's home, even if the exact significance of specific points (like Allah's 100 names) may elude the target audience. Hays's (The Boy Who Loved Morning) paintings, obviously carefully researched, ably suggest a timeless setting. Rendered in acrylics on gessoed linen canvas so that the grain shows through, effectively hazy art captures the spiritual quality of the tale. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)