Review of Riding a Donkey Backwards: Wise and Foolish Tales of Mulla Nasruddin

Riding a Donkey Backwards: Wise and Foolish Tales of Mulla Nasruddin
retold by Sean Taylor and the Khayaal Theatre; illus. by Shirin Adl
Primary    Candlewick    48 pp.
8/19    978-1-5362-0507-7    $18.99

Mulla Nasruddin, as the preface explains, is a pan-Muslim trickster figure who has captivated storytellers for generations and whose actions constantly challenge perceptions, asking readers and listeners to see things in a different light. For example, you may think that Nasruddin is riding his donkey backwards, but in his view, “I’m facing forward. It’s the donkey who’s facing backwards!” Each of the twenty-one pithy vignettes in this collection imparts a philosophical, ethical, or intellectual conundrum. In “The Other Side,” a man asks Nasruddin, standing on the opposite bank of a river, how he can cross to the other side. Nasruddin, with his usual irascible tone, replies, “What a birdbrain…You are on the other side!” The story “When You Are Dead” asks what one would like said about them at their funeral. Nasruddin’s answer: “Look! He’s moving!” Mixed-media illustrations incorporate texture that makes each vignette an engrossing visual experience. Paper, tissue, felt, yarn, sticks, miniature woven carpets, and beads are combined with other textures that beg to be touched. With his bulbous nose, towering turban, expressive face, four teeth, and fluffy cotton beard that defies gravity, Nasruddin will be sure to elicit giggles from young readers even as they contemplate the logical puzzles he poses. A glossary is appended, but no source notes are provided.

From the November/December 2019 Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Hakim Azzam
Julie Hakim Azzam
Julie Hakim Azzam teaches in the English department at the University of Pittsburgh. While her academic specialization is on literature from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, she has a passion for children’s literature and has been interviewing children’s authors for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for many years.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


RELATED 

Stay Connected. Join our devoted community of librarians, educators, and parents in the world of children’s and young adult literature.