Books It's Monday What Are You Reading Middle Eastern Literature Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] Picturebooks Set in Morocco and Turkey in “The Storyteller” and “Nasreddine”


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

I’ve been meaning to feature these two gorgeous picturebooks for awhile now. I have the perfect reason to do this now as we celebrate Middle Eastern literature until end of June.


Written by: Odile Weulersse Illustrated by: Rebecca Dautremer
Published by: Eerdmans Books For Young Readers, 2013 ISBN: 0802854168 (ISBN13: 9780802854162). Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me. 

The young Nasreddine was accompanying his father, Mustafa, to the market, when they came across a vizier on an Arabian horse who made fun of the fact that Mustafa was the one atop the donkey while his son followed behind. Mustafa calmly told the laughing people that “Your words, sir, are hurting my ears.” Yet, Nasreddine was deeply affected by this. And so the next time that they went to the market, the young boy made up some excuse so that it is he who would ride the donkey, while his father walks.

A group of old women who chanced upon them shook their heads and claimed that children these days are just so different, no respect for older folks. And so it goes. Each time Nasreddine hears a disparaging remark, he makes sure that he adjusts his behaviour the next time he and his father go to the market, with increasingly disastrous results.

Until finally, his father sat down with him and asked him to use his “common sense” rather than listen to each and every criticism that he hears from people around him. This is the perfect title to introduce to young readers to help them discern between hurtful words that don’t really mean anything and constructive messages that they should listen to. This is a lovely story on how to deal with teasing, judgments made by people around you, and carelessly thrown words that wound. It is also a perfect reminder that we simply can not please everyone around us, and that ultimately, what truly matters is how you feel about yourself, your honest intentions, and the good work that you do. It also reminded me of this quote from Dr. Seuss.

The Storyteller

Written and Illustrated by: Evan Turk
Published by: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016. ISBN: 1481435183 (ISBN13: 9781481435185). Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me. 

I fell in love with this book last year when it first came out. It has a story-within-a-story-within-a-story format, that is reminiscent of Arabian Nights. There is also an evil djinn, a drought, and the power of words to save an entire town.

The way that each tale is woven into another in an Inception-like fashion has been masterfully executed, that one does not really come away feeling lost – although younger readers would definitely need a bit more scaffolding. Evan Turk’s art with its broad swirling brushstrokes does the story so much justice.

Turk also provided more information in his Author’s Note as he talked about the magic of storytelling, and situating it from within his inspiration and setting for this story: Morocco.

Morocco’s public storytellers, or hlaykia, have been learning, preserving, and sharing stories for nearly one thousand years. These stories have been passed down from generation to generation and have become a part of the cultural fabric. The power of these storytellers lies in their audience, or halka, meaning “circle,” “ring,” or “link.” With the hlaykia in the center, the audience forms an expanding circle and is linked with the generations who came before them through the stories.

However, it was pointed out that as more people gravitate towards the internet and television, a lot of the storytellers are disappearing. This tribute by Evan Turk shows how we should do what we can to not let that happen. This is definitely a book to fall in love with.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Singapore. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she serves as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads or meeting up with her book club friends, she is smashing that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life.

8 comments on “[Monday Reading] Picturebooks Set in Morocco and Turkey in “The Storyteller” and “Nasreddine”

  1. Pussreboots

    Another pair of beautiful books! I had a great week of reading and a fun mother’s day. Come see what I’m reading now.


  2. lindabaie

    I love Nasredine, think it would be a wonderful read aloud to spark talk about how to respond to others’ remarks. I know of The Storyteller, am not sure if I’ve read it, sad to say. Thanks, Myra!


  3. Both of these books look so glorious I had to go and put reserves on both of them I’m so thankful my library system has them.


  4. wordstoreadbyblog

    Those books look gorgeous! I will have to keep an eye out for them!


  5. The Storyteller looks fantastic. So true that sadly centuries-old traditions have started to disappear, including oral storytelling.


  6. These look like terrific books to escape to another place and time! I’ll have to look for them! Have a great week!


  7. I enjoyed Evan Turk’s artwork in this one as well as the Gandhi books.


  8. Pingback: [Saturday Reads] Favourite Titles Across GatheringBooks’ 2017 Reading Themes – Gathering Books

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: