Myra here.

When we first launched our reading theme, I didn’t realize how many new books and authors I would get to know.

Saluki Hound of the Bedouin

Story by: Julia Johnson Illustrations by: Susan Keeble
Published by: Stacey International, 2005
ISBN: 8202231167 (ISBN13: 9788202231163)Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me. 

This is the second Julia Johnson book I’ve read. While I can not really say anything about the cultural authenticity of the stories, it seems apparent that Johnson has been living in the Middle East since 1975 and she uses the Arabian peninsula as her source of inspiration for her writing. In the jacketflap of the book, she is said to be a TV and radio personality in the UK and Dubai and has done theater productions in schools.

This story was of great interest to me since I am aware how the Arabs view dogs as unclean creatures. Hence, the relationship between the young Bedouin boy in this story, Hamad, and his saluki hound, a working breed of a dog – is one that sparked my curiosity.

In the Foreword of the book written by a Sir Terence Clark, the Chairman of the Saluki Coursing Club, he noted this different kind of bond between dog and his human:

The Bedouin have developed a bond with their Salukis based on their mutual dependence for survival, such that the hounds seem to know what is required of them with hardly a word of command or even a gesture.

Some find them aloof and undemonstrative, but in a Muslim society where ritual purification is necessary before praying if one has come into contact with an unclean animal (even such a privileged animal as the Saluki) it would never do for Salukis to be jumping up and licking their owners, or their visitors. Salukis know their place and keep to it while remaining alert to their masters’ needs.

Similar to Johnson’s The Pearl Diver, this is more like an illustrated novelette as opposed to a picturebook. It is quite text-heavy, but there is a rhythm to her storytelling that is soothing and leads you to unknown places. It is like her voice carries you over to somewhere unfamiliar, making it known to the reader.

This is a story of friendship, of learning the art of patience, and of maintaining a sense of humility despite the very easy tendency to become arrogant and self-absorbed, and too convinced of one’s skill. It is a story to savour. Find it.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. 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 served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. 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, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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