Riding a Donkey Backwards: Wise and Foolish Tales of Mulla Nasruddin, retold by Sean Taylor & the Khayaal Theatre/Illustrated by Shirin Ali, (Aug. 2019, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536205077
Mulla Nasruddin, the wise fool from Muslim folk tales, is here to entertain and liven up your 398 sections with 21 trickster tales. Every story is amusing; some are laugh-out-loud funny, and all of them will make you think. There are stories like “Whose Move?”, where the Mulla’s home is robbed; the Mulla follows the robber back to his home, gets into his bed, and informs him that his wife and family will join them tomorrow, convinced that he thought the robber was moving the Mulla and his family to the robber’s house. Stories like “Who Owns the Land?”, where the Mulla gives a thoughtful response to a dispute between farmers, will make readers pause and think about the earth and who has rights to it, after all. There’s a little bit of wisdom in each story.
The stories run 1-2 pages, allowing for quick reads during a circle time, story time, or lesson. The mixed media art is wonderful; it’s colorful and has different textures, almost inviting readers to touch the Mulla’s cottony beard or run a finger across a woven rug. An author’s note at the beginning of the book introduces readers to Mulla Nasruddin, and a glossary of Arabic terms helps readers with some new words. A welcome addition to trickster tales on the folktales shelf.
You can find out more about the Khayaal Theatre Company at their website. See more of Shirin Adl’s illustrations at her website. Get a riddle at author Sean Taylor’s website, or visit his blog for older readers.