Review: A Donkey Reads by Muriel Mandell

donkey reads

A Donkey Reads by Muriel Mandell, illustrated by Andre Letria

This adaptation of a Turkish folktale features Nasreddin Hoca, a 13th-century teacher, judge and imam whose writings are well known in the Middle East.  This is the story of a village in Anatolia that was conquered by the Mongols.  The Mongol leader demanded that every family pay tribute, but one family had only a worthless donkey to offer the leader.  When the Mongol leader reacts with fury at the tribute, Nasreddin speaks up and tells the him that the donkey is worth something, in fact Nasreddin will teach the donkey to read.  Everyone is shocked, but Nasreddin is calm and confident that it will happen.  The ending will have reader giggling at the humor and courage of Nasreddin’s solution.

Mandell has adapted this tale with a great feel for storytelling.  Her pacing is adept and her wording easy to share aloud.  The tale is universal in its appeal, thanks in particular to the humor that pervades it.  The end of the book has a page where the story of Nasreddin is shared with the reader.  It’s a trickster tale with only a donkey as an animal.

Letria’s art is filled with textures and colors.  The pages have backgrounds that are rough with brushstrokes, peeling and colors.  They add a feeling of age to the book, giving it a strong organic quality as well.  The characters pop on the page, especially Nasreddin with his towering headwear.  The illustrations add a great appeal to the story.

A window into another world of folktales that many of us have not experienced, this book offers plenty of humor and an appealing package.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by Planet Esme.

Review: Dot by Patricia Intriago


Dot by Patricia Intriago

This concept book uses dots to demonstrate opposites and follows the course of a day into night.  It opens with a big yellow dot that is very sun-like.  Then the simple but very strong graphic design creates a zippy, fun feel as the opposites are demonstrated.  Lines are added to show motion and direction.  Then chunks are taken out to show additional opposite pairs.  The simplicity lends the entire book a vibrancy and sense of humor.  Most of the book is done using black and white.  When color is used it is done specifically to show a concept, like red for stop and green for go. 

The text is just as simple as the illustrations, offering the concepts being shown.  It also has a nice rhythm that moves the book forward easily. 

Ideal for toddlers and for teaching opposites, this book is simply perfection.  Appropriate for ages 1-3.  Pair this with Lots of Dots by Craig Frazier for a story time filled with great illustrations and plenty of dotty fun.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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