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.