Feb 21, 2012

The Wooden Sword

The Wooden Sword by Ann Redisch Stampler
Illustrated by Carol Liddiment
Published by Albert Whitman & Company

     "One starry night in old Kabul, the good shah couldn't fall asleep."  He looked out his window and wondered if the people in town were happy or sad, "rick or poor, foolish or wise." So he dressed up as a servant and left the palace to find out for himself without anybody recognizing him.  When he reached the poorest section of the poorest street he looked inside the window of a home from which sounds of laughter and singing emerged.  He saw a young couple happy together, sharing "nectar of sweet raisins by the light of their two Sabbath lamps." Wondering how poor people could be so happy, he knocked on their door and was immediately invited inside by the young man, who offered to shared his food -although he had very little.  The young man explained to the shah that he was a shoe maker and that every day he earned enough to buy food for dinner. The shah was curious and questioned him "But what if one day you can't earn enough puli?"  The shoemaker, while giving the shah his largest apricot, explained that he just didn't worry about that sort of thing. "If one path is blocked, God leads me to another, and everything turns out just as it should."
     The shah left that night impressed and wondering how strong the shoemaker's faith might be. So he decided to test it while ensuring no harm would really come to the young man.  He decreed that repairing shoes was illegal and the shoemaker found a way to work as a water delivery man that day, therefore still providing food for dinner. The shah then made delivering water illegal as well, so the young man found a new job. Nothing the shah tried seemed to shake the young man's faith and optimism.  Eventually, the young man ends up as a royal guard.  How will he do when he's asked to become an executioner?
     The Wooden Sword is a delightful retelling of a classic Afghani Jewish folktale.  It's a tale about faith, optimism, and resourcefulness to overcome any obstacles.  The illustrations by Liddiment are vibrant and offer an insight into a time and culture unfamiliar to most readers. Excellent addition to the folktale library.

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