Riding a Donkey Backwards

Riding a Donkey BackwardsRid­ing 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
ISBN 978−1−5362−0507−7

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!

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