Never Say A Mean Word Again: A Tale from Medieval Spain

062014_mishmash_bookBy Jacqueline Jules
Wisdom Tales, 32 pages

Rare is the children’s book that, by virtue of its illustrations and story, can be vaulted into the ranks of the classics, those stories such as “Where the Wild Things Are” that can cross across generational divides and hold up to the discerning tastes of ever-fickle toddlers.

“Never Say a Mean Word Again” has the potential to join these greats.

Inspired by a medieval legend about the Jewish poet Samuel Ha-Nagid, the highest royal adviser in Muslim-controlled Granada, Jacqueline Jules’ prose — backed by the rich illustrations of Durga Yael Bernhard — tells the story of the grand vizier’s son, Samuel, who struggles against the wiles of Hamza, the insolent son of the tax collector. His father’s sole advice? “Make sure Hamza never says a mean word to you again.”

While at first the boy wants to extract punishment, in time he befriends Hamza; indeed, the two boys never again fall prey to conflict.

It’s a tale of peace badly needed in the troubled hours known as bedtime. But be forewarned: One of the childhood insults mentioned in the book will for sure have your kids roaring with laughter.

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