Author: Odile Weulersse
Illustrator: Rebecca Dautremer
Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Audience: Ages 4-9
Summary: When Mustafa needs to take a load of dates to the market, his young son Nasreddine willingly agrees to help. Together they tie the load on the donkey, Mustafa climbs on, and Nasreddine follows along behind. A grand vizier they meet along the road makes fun of a man who would be lazy enough to ride while his son walks, and young Nasreddine is full of shame. The next week the little boy schemes to ride the donkey when they take wool to the weavers, but a new set of critics passes judgment on children who do not respect their elders. Trip after trip finds Nasreddine responding to those who criticize him and his father: father and son ride the donkey with a huge basket full of chickens, both of them run behind the donkey loaded with watermelons, and, eventually, Nasreddine proposes that they carry the donkey to avoid censure. The usually calm Mustafa finally puts his foot down and helps his son decide the wisest course.
Literary elements at work in the story: An historical note at the back of the book tells us that Nasreddine stories are told throughout the Middle East. This book has the flavor of a folk tale, with its simple, plot-driven narrative and archetypal characters. Dautremer’s lovely illustrations help flesh out the personalities of the patient, gentle father and the embarrassed, insecure son.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? The story is set in an unnamed Middle Eastern village at an indeterminate time. While the two main characters, Nasreddine and Mustafa, are male, secondary characters are old and young, male and female, rich and not-so-rich. The main perspective here centers on the insecurity of a child contrasted with the wisdom of his parent. Rather than skewering Nasreddine’s lack of confidence, however, Mustafa patiently allows his son to accumulate enough experience to be able to make a wise choice on his own.
Theological Conversation Partners: This story would work well with the scriptural references to persecution (e.g., John 15:19-21; 2 Corinthians 12:10; and the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:10-12). Nasreddine is wounded to the quick each time someone disapproves of him, while Mustafa serves as a calm deflector of criticism. Nasreddine would also do well to remember Paul’s admonition to the Romans (12:2) “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Finally, Nasreddine might serve as a good way of talking about how God walks with us (just as Mustafa walked with Nasreddine) no matter how many mistakes we make, guiding us, protecting us, and giving us behavioral models to help us grow into wisdom.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Why do you think that people criticized Nasreddine in this story?
- How did their criticism make Nasreddine feel?
- If you have ever been criticized for something you did, how did you feel about it?
- Talk about a time when you did something you knew was right, even though other people made fun of you.
- What do you think that Nasreddine will do the next time he and Mustafa have to take something to market?
This review was written by Union Presbyterian Seminary graduate Beth Lyon-Suhring.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Books written for ages 3 - 5, Books written for Grades 1 -3 (Ages 6-8), Faith Questions For...., Older Elementary, Younger Elementary | Tagged: conforming, fathers, insecurity, persecution, wisdom | Leave a Comment »