Three very naughty boys harass visitors to Cordoba’s Great Mosque in Spain. Rashid, a Muslim, Samuel, a Jew, and Miguel, a Christian, run through the fountains, destroy the flowerbeds and throw oranges at people leaving their prayers. Most days the boys can out run the gardeners, but one day they pelt the Caliph himself with a rotten orange. The punishment from the Caliph is three months of hard labor working with the gardeners everyday on the mosque grounds. On their breaks the boys explore the mosque and marvel at its beauty. By the end of their sentence, the boys have such a love for the mosque and one another that they are forever bound. As the boys grow and make their way in the world, they don’t keep in touch much. However, when Cordoba is defeated in battle by the Christian king Fernando, it will be up to these three boys to convince the new king, that the Mosque shouldn’t be torn down. And that the it is the pride of all people in Cordoba, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian alike.
The book is 32 pages and an AR 4.0. It does a good job of showing the three faith communities coming together to save something they all value. It also shows a kind, yet purposeful punishment from the Caliph to the three boys. While younger kids in story time will enjoy the concept of people working together, the book really finds its strength with students learning or familiar with Spain, particularly prior to the Inquisition. There isn’t a lot of detail regarding the structure of the mosque, or the doctrine of each faith, that knowledge would have to come from outside the book, in order for it to be appreciated. There are some plot holes in the story and the book itself doesn’t make it clear what parts of the story are historically accurate and which are fiction.
The illustrations are charming in their own way. The watercolors do a good job bringing to life the mosque and gardens, and battle, but for me fall a little flat in depicting the three boys. I don’t know if the text or illustrations are at fault for me not connecting to the story or finding an emotional resonance to what should be a very inspiring story. Perhaps it is a combination of the two. I feel it is desperately in need of an author’s note detailing the factual origins of the tale, Something to uplift and give hope to people of different faiths coming together in a peaceful way, that can be put into real world actions.