Riding a Donkey Backwards:
Wise and Foolish Tales of Mulla Nasruddin
Retold by Sean Taylor and The Khayal Theatre
illustrated by Shirin Adl
Candlewick Press, 2019
The wise fool or the foolish wise man? As the authors explain, “Nasruddin is the wisest man in the village and also the biggest fool. … If he doesn’t make you laugh, he will certainly make you think — and perhaps think sideways instead of straight ahead.” Mulla Nasruddin is an ancient Persian folk character, discussed in Sufi studies, familiar throughout India, Syria, Turkey, Iran, and the Middle East.
These two-page stories are just right for reading out loud and then talking over what happened. You can have great discussions about reasoning, logic, and creative problem solving. This will work with young readers as well as college students and adults, perhaps in an ELL class.
When a man across the river asks Mulla Nasruddin how to get to the other side, Nasruddin mutters, “What a birdbrain.” Then he shouts, “You are on the other side.”
These are two-page stories, each of which will produce an eye roll, but always encouraging questions. Sideways thinking indeed!
The illustrations in this book are worthy of close examination, identifying the many objects the artist includes. The river is represented by glass beads and paper. There are paper fish and a stick from a tree for a fishing rod. In another spread, the camel’s saddle is beaded, as is his tether. There are rich fabrics, crocheted pieces, woven rugs, baskets, and cloth bags. The result is both contemporary and ancient.
Why is the Mulla riding a donkey backwards? The last page reveals all.
Mulla Nasruddin should be on your bookshelves!