Tag Archives: Turkey

Drummer Girl by Hiba Masood illustrated by Hoda Hadadi

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Drummer Girl by Hiba Masood illustrated by Hoda Hadadi

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Before she was Grandma Najma, she was just Najma.  A girl in Turkey with a secret dream of being a musaharati, the person who walks the streets waking up the neighbors for suhoor in Ramadan.  But, a girl had never done this and thus the dream stayed hidden until she was 12 and the neighborhood musaharati was feeling ill.  Confiding in her baba, his love and support makes her dream come true against cultural norms and naysayers.  The line from her Baba, “Girls can be anything they like,” is so clear that her one girl revolution grabs the hearts of the reader and turns readers into cheerleaders.  The added beauty is her father’s support is not limited to his words, he accompanies her out every night almost challenging anyone to say she can’t do it.  Overtime she becomes the pride of the area, and her brothers accompany her if she doesn’t want to go alone, and then eventually her husband and her children.

drumemrgirl2The book warms the soul and uplifts the spirit.  The text seems geared to 7 year olds and up, as there is a lot of it, and at 26 pages does require some ability to focus. But with minor tweaks and condenscing the story appeals to children 4 and up and the pictures help hold their attention as they create a mood of wonder and whimsy.

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Structurally the book is hardback and dust jacket free, yay! the cover is printed on and thus easier to maintain.  The book is longer horizontally with most illustrations on the left side making it great for story time where the kids can see the pictures and the reader can hold and easily see the text without blocking the children’s line of sight.  There is a glossary, an author’s note telling where the story comes from, and a little biography of the author and illustrator and publisher in the back.

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A beautiful, beautiful book to share with children this Ramadan and all year long, alhumdulillah.

A Tale from Turkey The Hungry Coat by Demi

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A Tale from Turkey The Hungry Coat by Demi

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It really bothered me that I didn’t love the version I read of  The Parrot and the Turkey about Nasreddin Hodja, especially after finding out how entwined he is in Turkish culture, and reading some of his tales online.  So, when I found that Demi had also rewritten and illustrated a tale from his collection I was anxious to check it out.

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The  Hungry Coat is a charming story and Demi does a great job of bringing it to life with her pictures and storytelling abilities.  The book is 36 pages and a 4.1 on AR.  The text isn’t overwhelming in volume, but to read it definitely requires a bit of an older child’s vocabulary.  Words like caravansary, hostel, banquet, frisky, and commotion are scattered through out.  However, to listen to the story and to understand the message Nasrettin Hoca (an alternate spelling) is conveying, is easily enjoyed by children four and up.  The story flows very smoothly and the catch line of “Eat, coat! Eat!” makes the story absolutely delightful.

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Nasrettin Hoca always keeps an apple in his pocket for any goats he might pass while he is out and about.  One day he helps round-up a goat that has gotten lost, and in all the commotion had become quite a mess and lost too much time to go home and change his clothes before heading to a friend’s house for dinner.  Deciding to go in his patchy, smelly clothes, Nasrettin soon finds that none at the dinner party will sit by him, or even sit facing him.  He slips out quietly from the gathering and has an idea.  He goes home and preens himself, and returns to the party where he is greeted with attention and kindness.  At dinner he begins placing the food in his coat, rather than eating it.  Each time he opens his coat he commands it to eat.  After he fills his coat he pats his belly to the bemusement of all around him as they ask him what he is doing.  He makes his point that when he came in his old coat he wasn’t fed, but when he came dressed so beautifully he was, and thus clearly the coat was invited to dinner, not him.  Everyone cheered and learned the lesson.

“A coat may be fine, but a coat does not make a man.”

The illustrations are rich and detailed, but I did find myself a little put off when Nasrettin seemed to go from looking like an old little man, to being very effeminate.  The inconsistency bothered me a bit, which surprised me for a Demi illustration.  Also, it is worth noting that there is mention of wine in the story, that many may find off for a children’s book, particularly one about Muslims (Nasrettin was an Imam and a Dervish, so he may have drunk, I’m just saying it surprised me).  The last two pages of the book are an afterword about Nasrettin Hoca in real life and the influence of his folk tales and lessons.

Tales of Nasreddin Hodja: The Parrot and the Turkey prepared by Gamze Alici illustrated by Sinem Zengincelebi

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img_2803I ordered this book a while ago online.  There is a whole series of Nasreddin Hodja, so I picked a title at random.  I read it when it arrived and the story seemed to wander more than my attention span could follow.  So naturally,  I had my children read it, and they said it seemed funny, but they didn’t understand it.  I glanced through it again and figured maybe it was one of those beloved cultural characters that just lost some of their charm in translation.  In this case, Nasreddin Hodja is a folktale type character born in the 13th century from Konya, Turkey, who is the star of short stories that teach a point in a silly way.  The opening page tells a bit about him and what you can hope to learn in the story, but it didn’t help understand why the book was so fragmented.

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In my latest move, I found the book again, read it again, and was stumped again. But luckily this time I contacted a Turkish friend instead of putting it back on the shelf and realized this book does not do Nasreddin Hodja justice, he is a hoot.  The book, not so much.

So first, a review of the book.  The book is beautiful and fun to look at.  The colorful glossy pages and clear font invite readers between ages 6-9 to read it and younger kids to have the story read to them.  The illustrations are delightful and after hearing about Nasreddin Hodja I think they convey his silly, yet wise persona.

Unfortunately the story is long.  At 32 pages with a fair amount of text on each page the author seems to try and take three tales and connect them into one coherent story.  The result is an abundance of detail that doesn’t move the story to his poignant conclusion and instead results in unresolved tangents.  For example in the first part of the story, he goes to the market to buy a few things for an alfresco breakfast with his wife.  Along the way he stops at a fountain to drink some water, he then begins shopping and after listing off dozens of vegetables and fruits, and details how he buys each item and what season they come from, he gets to his commentary of how silly a man selling a parrot for a ton of money is.  He then returns home to get his turkey to make the point to the parrot vendor that if he is asking 50 pieces of silver for a parrot that can talk, he will sell his turkey who can think for 100 pieces of silver.

This story covers about 17 pages of the book, but the same tale as told on the website http://www.readliterature.com/hodjastories.htm is only a few short sentences.

Parrot

One day The Hodja was walking around in the market place. He saw a bright-coloured bird for sale for 12 gold coins. Hodja was amazed. He approached the crowd gathered around the bird and its seller.

How can a bird be so expensive?’ he asked the people watching the bird.

This is a special bird,’ they explained, `it can talk like a human being!’

This gave Hodja an idea. He went straight to his home, grabbed his turkey and brought him to the market place. He stood near the man selling the parrot.

Turkey, for sale, ten gold coins!’ he yelled.

Hodja Effendi, how can a turkey be worth ten gold coins?’ the shoppers protested.

There is a bird there for 12 gold.’ insisted the adamant Hodja.

But Hodja Effendi, that bird can talk like a human being.’ the people tried to reason. But Hodja was unbending.

And this turkey can think like a human being.’ he countered.

Obviously I can understand what the writer was trying to do. But, unfortunately it doesn’t work.  Mina Javaherbin did something similar when retelling Rumi’s poems in children’s book form, but she had better luck.  Perhaps if the author would have kept them shorter and not embellished them to teach so many lessons about vocabulary and seasons and colors it would have actually had a begining, middle and end.  Early readers will find the pages over bearing and fluid readers will see the holes in the narrative.  Perhaps if each story were only a few pages there would have been a plot and take-away-lesson. Unfortunately as written Hodja’s message gets lost and the reader takes very little if anything away from the book.

When you research some of Nasreddin Hodja’s stories they are fun, and it becomes easy to see why children (according to my friend) dress up as him in school and he is quoted and referenced so widely and lovingly.  His stories work well in an oral tradition, obviously, and if you follow my mother’s advice (a preschool teacher for a few dozen years) and “tell” a story to little kids instead of “read” it, this book can get some use.  In story time with 3 to 5 year olds showing the pictures and talking about what is going on, on each page before winding around to the point allows them to to interact with the pictures and story and the reader to impart some of this beloved characters insight on to the audience.

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