From the depths of the jungles to Middle Eastern marketplaces to magical fairy forests, the following books span diverse settings. The stories illustrate just how effectively narrative can represent and transmit different cultures’ traditions, heritage, mythos, and history.
In Odile Weulersse’s Nasreddine, Mustafa and his son Nasreddine set out for the market four times, facing different criticism from passersby each time. Disheartened young Nasreddine ultimately discovers that one shouldn’t fear the judgment of others. Variants of this Middle Eastern folktale date back to the Middle Ages. Rébecca Dautremer’s comical and evocative art alternates pages of vibrant, organic-looking architecture and creative perspectives with pages of expressively elongated figures. (Eerdmans, 5–8 years)
On her way to visit her daughter, Grandma meets a fox, a bear, and a tiger. She convinces them all to wait for her return trip to eat her. Heading for home disguised as a gourd, Grandma fools all but the clever fox. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s retelling of Grandma and the Great Gourd: A Bengali Folktale evokes oral tradition through use of pattern and onomatopoeia. Susy Pilgrim Waters’s collages use a flat perspective that suggests folk art while simultaneously creating depth through layering and textures. (Porter/Roaring Brook, 5–8 years)
The illustrations in The Girl of the Wish Garden: A Thumbelina Story written by Uma Krishnaswami were created by renowned Iranian artist Nasrin Khosravi and originally appeared in a 1999 Farsi edition of Hans Christian Andersen’s “Thumbelina.” The acrylic and tissue paintings brim with allusive (and elusive) imagery in a luminous palette crowned with the cherry red of tiny Lina’s gown. Krishnaswami uses the illustrations as her “primary source material,” and her words are a fair match for the art. Pair this volume with Andersen’s original tale for a lovely conversation. (Groundwood, 7–10 years)
Daniel Munduruku narrates with refreshing economy a dozen stories from seven tribes in Amazonia: Indigenous Tales from Brazil. Though his themes are such universals as maturation and survival, the drama is grounded in the jungle. In Nikolai Popov’s full-page gouache and ink art, energetic creatures inhabit lustrous settings from a lush jungle floor to a pellucid blue sky. Humor abounds, along with shapeshifters, forthright deaths, earthy details, and unexpected scenarios. (Groundwood, 7–10)
From the June 2013 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.