Arab children’s books are like a four leaf clover to me. Every time I come across one, I realize the rarity of the occurrence and I snatch it up.
One of my favorite things to visit in any city is its used book store. I feel that it can always tell so many stories about it’s character by the people that are left on the shelves.
These are some of my favorite Arab folktales books, all of them purchased from used book stores around the Unites States. Each one has a city name written inside (in pencil of course) that reminds me a little about it’s original home.
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Ben-Ezer, Ehud. Hosni the Dreamer. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1997
-Based on an old Arabian folktale, this enjoyable story features Hosni, a poor shepherd, who works for a sheikh. His evenings are spent listening to the tribal elders’ tales of travel and adventure in faraway cities. Hosni dreams of seeing these cities some day and shares his dreams with his sheep, causing the other shepherds to tease him mercilessly.
Gold, Sharlya and Caspi, Mishael Maswari. The Answered Prayer: And Other Yemenite Folktales. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1990.
-Yemenite Jews were the victims of harsh laws and persecution, yet out of their troubled lives came tales of joy as well as of sorrow. When the Jews left Yemen for Israel, the stories came with them, reflecting their culture, their heritage, and their struggle to survive. Mishael Caspi collected these stories and translated them for Sharlya Gold, who adapted them for children. The wonderful illustrations by Marjory Wunsch highlight the authenticity and spirit of Yemenite Jewish life. This collection of 12 folktales, originally published by JPS in 1990, is sure to entertain new readers and introduce them to the rich lore of this ancient culture.
Green, Nancy. Abu Kassim’s Slippers: An Arabian Tale. Chicago: Follett Publishing Company, 1963.
-This is a story of the miser Abu Kassim and his attempts at scheming to get rid of his slippers.
Johnson-Davies, Denys. Goha the Wise Fool. New York: Philomel Books, 2005.
-Meet Goha, that funny little man with the faithful donkey, whose tales, beloved for their wit and wisdom, have been passed down through the streets of the smallest villages of the Middle East for centuries. Meet Goha, who in making us laugh at him, shows us—young and old everywhere— that we can laugh at ourselves.
Kimmel, Eric A. Rimonah of the Flashing Sword: A North African Tale. New York: Holiday House, 1995.
-A North African version of Snow White, with 40 thieves in the role of the seven dwarfs. Eric Kimmel has complete reworked the story by turning Rimonah into a “fearless young woman who rode with the reckless daring of a bedouin horseman.” Beautiful, layered watercolor illustrations greatly enhance the story.
Kimmel, Eric A. The Tale of Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp: A Story from the Arabian Nights. New York: Holiday House, 1992.
-A retelling of the adventures of Aladdin who, with the aid of a genie from a magic lamp, fights an evil sorcerer and wins the hand of a beautiful princess.
Kimmel, Eric A. The Three Princes. New York: Holiday House, 1994.
-A princess promises to marry the prince who finds the most precious treasure.
Laird, Elizabeth. A Fistful of Pearls and Other Tales from Iraq. London: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2008.
-Secret serpents, devilish demons, mysterious magicians — the folk tales of Iraq are filled with otherworldly creatures, enchantment, and earthy humor. During her time spent in the Middle East, award-winning novelist Elizabeth Laird gathered together the very best Iraqi stories, ranging from thieving porcupines who get their come-uppance to the hilarious tale of the chaos caused by a handsome stranger who knocks at a house harboring a marriageable daughter. Meticulously researched, these stories reveal the true, traditional heart of Iraq, far removed from today’s news headlines.
Lang, Andrew. Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp. London: Viking Juvenile, 1981.
-Recounts the tale of a poor tailor’s son who becomes a wealthy prince with the help of a magic lamp he finds in an enchanted cave.
Mayer, Marianna. Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1985.
-Retells the adventures of Aladdin who, with the help of a genie from a magic lamp, outwits an evil sorcerer and wins the hand of a beautiful princess.
Todino-Gonguet, Grace. Halimah and the Snake. London: Stacey International Publishing, 2008.
-In Halimah and the Snake, Grace Todino-Gonguet has collected and re-written a handful of stories from Oman’s folktale heritage. As with folktales and legends worldwide, the creatures and characters are at times terrifying and fantastic, the stories always enthralling, and invariably seek to impart some moral guidance to their young readers.