The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale


A sparrow’s greed gets the best of him.
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A sparrow’s greed gets the best of him.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When a sparrow with a thorn in his foot receives kindnesses from strangers, he intimidates each of them into giving him something he desires. By book's end, the sparrow sings about his wheeling and dealing: "In place of a thorn, I got some bread. In place of some bread, I got a sheep. In place of a sheep, I got a bride. In place of a bride, I got a lute." But as he sits in a tree, "rock in glee, he lost his footing... leaving the sparrow as he began... with nothing but a thorn in his foot." Zaikinas's lost-wax illustrations resemble thick-lined woodcuts and adroitly portray events that might daunt modern readers, as when the bridegroom decides to slaughter the dolefully funny sheep for kebabs, or agrees to give up his bride to the sparrow—a scene in which the sparrow carries the sheep while flying is sure to draw laughs. The one-dimensional characters all give the bully what he wants for the same reason—because "it was no use arguing"—making this a story about poetic justice more than anything else. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
This progressive folktale originates in the Armenian tradition, but bears kinship to other tales such as The Fisherman's Wife, in which a character through excessive greed loses all that he has acquired. This tale does not rely on magic for the acquisitions of bigger and better possessions, but on trading up. In this case a sparrow (quite large in the Eastern European folkloric illustrations by Zaikina) trades a painful thorn in his foot for a loaf of bread, the bread for a sheep, the sheep for a bride, the bride for a lute, and the lute ultimately brings him back to the beginning of his tale with a thorn in his foot. The trades, of course, are outlandish, but this is a traditional tale so just go with the flow. How a tiny sparrow can lift a whole sheep may be cause for question, and the fact that the sheep ends up as shish kebab at the bride's wedding is a little gruesome for young readers. Just ask the sheep! His sorrowful face tellingly shows that he knows that he is about to be skewered and barbecued. The illustrations are densely colored and saturate the page with activity. However, this book has a definite home in folktale collections and an accessible morale on how greed and ill-gotten gains seldom produce a happy ending. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—A homely sparrow turns a thorn in his foot to fine advantage in this simple spin on the familiar folktale of the rising fortunes and eventual downfall of one who overreaches. Revisiting the obliging baker who removed the thorn, sparrow asks for its return. Alas...she has thrown it in the oven. The tale moves forward in alternate bits of narrative atop or below each full-page scene and dialogue set in speech balloons. "Either give me my thorn or give me some bread." The sparrow journeys far, conning the folks he encounters and parlaying the loaf of bread into a sheep, which in turn yields a bride from a countryside wedding. The sparrow's trade-ups involve leaving each of his gains for safekeeping with someone along the way who then ends up having to pay a forfeit. "Either you give me the bride or give me the lute." Zaikina's expressive portrayals of both animal and human characters, rendered in bold outline and rich color, beautifully convey the tale's goofy fun. Her use of wax and oil paint in a kind of scratchboard technique smartly blends folk and cartoon styles. Though some may find the cartoon arrangement of conversation intrusive for reading aloud, others will find that it moves smoothly, adding nicely to the character portrayals. In the end, of course, sparrow's cockiness results in a fall (literally) from glory "with nothing but a thorn in his foot."—Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
Kirkus Reviews

Victim becomes victimizer in this tale inspired by an Armenian fable. A sparrow catches a thorn in his foot and asks a baker to remove it. She obliges and throws it in the oven. Later, the sparrow returns to ask for the thorn and, audaciously demands bread in its place. He tricks the shepherd in the same way, giving him the bread to watch and when the shepherd eatsit,thesparrow demands a sheep. Flying over a wedding feast,he asks the groom to mind the sheep, but the groom feeds the wedding guestsshish kabobsand the sparrowwants the bride in payment! The sparrow continues his escalation until he ends up with a lute—until, sitting on a thorny branch, he loses his footing. The lute falls, andhe is as he began, with nothing but a thorn in his foot. The author notes this is based on a centuries-old Armenian tale.In Zaikina's bold, folk-style illustrations, both characters and landscape are heavily outlined in black, andthe characters' dialogue is in speech balloons.Pictures are lightened with bright, textured colors (they were made with oil paint and layers of wax) and have an appealing, vigorous heft. Armenian folk attire and references to places in Armenia authenticate the tale. It's a rhythmicread-aloudbeginning readerscan share.(Picture book. 4-7)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780761458210
  • Publisher: Amazon Childrens Publishing
  • Publication date: 4/1/2011
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD640L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.60 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 1, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Delightful Fable With Important Lessons

    "The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale", written by Lucine Kasbarian and illustrated by Maria Zaikina, is an Armenian fable. A fable is a story that teaches a lesson about life.

    The sparrow in this story has a thorn in his foot. He takes advantage of a woman baking a loaf of bread and tricks her into giving him the bread. The trickster repeats this behavior over and over again, never satisfied with what he has. He finally ends up losing everything and finds himself with another thorn stuck in his foot. The author states, "we learn that people who engage in dishonest or selfish behavior may end up losing whatever they gained because of that behavior."

    The book illustrations were rendered with layers of wax and oil paint, and then the layers were cut away to reveal the colors underneath. The illustrations do an excellent job portraying the Armenian culture and landscape. The pictures are colorful and cheerful. The animal's expressions are delightful and humorous.

    I think children today need understand that crime doesn't pay. There will always be consequences for bad behavior. I also like the way the story and the illustrations teach about a far-away place with a strange sounding name. Most American children are probably not familiar with the Republic of Armenia. This would be a wonderful opportunity to get out the globe and talk about people who live on the other side of the world.

    The author provides an excellent study guide and activities on her web site. There are so many lessons that can be taught from this book. Great for children of all ages!

    I want to thank Ms. Kasbarian for sending me a digital copy of this book to read and review. It was a real pleasure.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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