cover image Never Say a Mean Word Again: A Tale from Medieval Spain

Never Say a Mean Word Again: A Tale from Medieval Spain

Jacqueline Jules, illus. by Durga Yael Bernhard. Wisdom Tales, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-937786-20-5

Inspired by a legend about a Jewish vizier who advised the Muslim ruler of medieval Spain, this story tells of a conundrum faced by a boy named Samuel and the counterintuitive wisdom of his father, the vizier. After Samuel accidentally offends Hamza, the tax collector’s son, and incurs endures his rage (“Donkey Brain! Stupid! Look what you did!”), Samuel’s father instructs him, “Make sure Hamza never says a mean word to you again.” With illuminating details—such as the boys’ headwear, backdrops of thick stone walls or heavy wooden doors, geometric patterns in mauves and browns, and a vine and flower motif—Bernhard’s (Around the World in One Shabbat) illustrations convey an elegant, multicultural castle environment. Energy and movement infuse the paintings, which humorously render Samuel’s contemplated strategies (“Maybe he could train a monkey to sit on Hamza’s shoulders. The monkey could clamp Hamza’s lips shut”). Jules’s (the Zapato Power series) down-to-earth narrative communicates Samuel’s subtle internal transformation as the unexpected, amusing, and touching outcomes of his attempts to obey his father turn a power struggle into a budding friendship. Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agency: Herman Agency. (May)