Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This spry offering from the author and artists who produced The Crow Who Stood on His Beak easily outshines that earlier effort. The relatively lengthy but crisp narrative balances animated dialogue with pithy description, making this a choice read-aloud. Hoping to improve the family fortunes, a brother accepts a strange deal offered by the master of a castle: if he can work for a week without losing his temper, he will receive a gold coin. But if he fails, the master will take away all of his dreams, and "deep and restful sleep will be gone forever." The boy narrowly fails; it is his younger sister, Fatima, who succeeds in outwitting the master. Schami embroiders his plot with fanciful imagery; for example, the master's stolen dreams appear as luminous butterflies locked away in a castle room. Cools and Streich exploit the exotic setting with whimsical depictions of minarets, multilevel Moorish palaces and the master's Aladdin-esque curled slippers. Deftly manipulating proportion, the artists intimate a David and Goliath-style conflict, but their cheery, loose lines and varied perspectives keep the action buoyant and the mood light. Ages 5-8. (Dec.)
Children's Literature - C. Dennette Michaels
A delightful, feminist adventure in which the art and story provide color to warm, humor to cheer, and a congruous happy ending as the villainous lord is forced to keep his bargain by two "up in arms" women. The unnamed lord of the castle has been using psychology to hire, and fire unpaid, a series of castle helpers. When Fatima's brother tries and fails, she signs on for the job. Success results when she looks high, talks low, and strategizes to make an ally of the silent old servant, Miriam. Fatima provides a role model of a sturdy "I can do" personality.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3An original but somewhat derivative story in folktale style. Hassan, the son of a poor, sick widow, finds work in the castle of a wealthy lord. His master threatens that if the boy loses his temper, he will receive no pay and, in addition, all of his dreams will be taken away. The boy sets out cheerfully and, despite every obstacle thrown his way, maintains his good humor. The last straw comes when, after a particularly trying day, the lord throws a full teapot in his face. Hassan's temper finally erupts, the lord carries out his threat, and the boy returns home empty-handed and desolate. However, his younger sister Fatima finds success where he has failed; she outwits the cruel master, releases the dreams he has imprisoned in the castle, beats the man into submission, and returns home with 10 gold pieces. Full-page cartoonlike watercolor-and-pen illustrations complement this well-told story of connivance and comeuppance.Sally R. Dow, Ossining Public Library, NY
The wealthy lord of a castle strikes a peculiar deal with a desperately poor boy, Hassan. If Hassan can work for the man for a week without losing his temper, he'll receive a gold coin. If he becomes angry and forfeits his coin, the castle's owner will also have the right to take Hassan's dreams. Hassan works hard all week, but allows himself to be provoked by his master on the last day. Without pay or his dreams, Hassan trudges home, where sister Fatima vows to redress the wrong. She agrees to work for the Dream Thief on the same terms, but makes him promise her two gold coins if he loses his temper. During the week Fatima keeps her eyes open, studying her master and puzzling over the secrets of the locked room and the old mute woman who also toils in the castle. Ultimately, Fatima earns not two gold coins, but ten, as well as the grateful friendship of all under the thumb of the Dream Thief, by releasing the caged butterflies of dreams from his locked room.
Schami and his collaborators on The Crow Who Stood on His Beak (p. 536) have created a rich and fully realized setting for this robust story. The illustrations are extraordinaryforced in perspective, free in format, and lucid within the terms of the book's exotic realm. A visual treat with a gutsy heroine at its center.