Finished: Apr. 6, 2011
First Published:Mar. 8, 2011
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: children, picture book, folktales
Long ago in Turkey, there lived a man named Nasrudin Hoja.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Tundra Books.
Reason for Reading: I love legends, folklore and the like. This was an area completely unknown to me so I was intrigued to read these tales.
These stories come from Turkey and are Muslim tales of a wise man, a trickster and a fool all wrapped up in the same person. Hoji is a Muslim teacher, some respect him others don't. Historically, Nasrudin Hoja (who goes by a host of different spellings) is considered an actual man who may have lived in the 1200s, his funny tales with messages have been handed down and built upon all over the middle east and across Asia, even reaching as far as China. But this book sticks with the tales told in Turkey, centered on the then village of Aksehir.
There are ten folktales presented here, each is short (only a few pages long) and Hoji while being a wise man is really very silly indeed. Children should find these stories humorous and laugh at the solutions Hoji comes up with to his, or others, troubles. He is always fair and stuck-up people will get pulled back down to reality. Hoji is a winner for the common folk and isn't afraid to take on a man of much greater status than himself. Hoji is also a trickster and likes to cause a little trouble by bringing someone back down to earth and showing him he is not above other people just because he has money or position. Then there is Hoji the fool, who will listens to what people tell him and in the end it is he who has been made a fool of, but still a lesson is being taught. Most of the stories have a lesson attached to them though they are not always blatantly obvious and do require you to think what the message of the story is. A couple, I think were just silly stories, as I could not find a message hidden in them at all.
The book is told in simple language and as I said the stories are short so I'm recommending this for lower elementary children or as a read-aloud to younger children of any age. The illustrations are beautiful. Capturing the art of Turkish design in bold, bright cartoon-ish style pictures which seem to be done in a mixed-media format and, if I'm not mistaken, that includes a tad of collage as well. This is a fun introduction to a new cultural folktale that kids are sure to have fun with.