The Secret Room

The Secret Room

by Shulevitz, Uri Shulevitz
     
 

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While traveling in the countryside, a king asks a gray-haired man why his beard is black. "Because my head is older than my beard," he replies. The king is so impressed with the man's clever answer that he soon names him treasurer of the kingdom. But the chief minister is jealous of the influence this outsider has over the king and accuses him of stealing. In order

Overview

While traveling in the countryside, a king asks a gray-haired man why his beard is black. "Because my head is older than my beard," he replies. The king is so impressed with the man's clever answer that he soon names him treasurer of the kingdom. But the chief minister is jealous of the influence this outsider has over the king and accuses him of stealing. In order to prove his innocence, the new treasurer must be wise as well as clever.
With jewel-tone watercolors, this simple but rich story by the Caldecott Medalist is sure to become a folktale favorite.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Though the exact setting is unspecified (Turkey? the Central Asian steppes? Egypt? Greece?), this tale is nonetheless imbued with very strong atmosphere. A liberal sprinkling of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern architectural elements (minarets, onion-domes, brightly tiled roofs, window moldings right out of Aladdin ) are given a postmodern twist, enlivened by Shulevitz's stained-glass-bright watercolors and crazy-quilt graphics. Impressed with the cleverness of a simple man he meets in the desert, a king appoints him treasurer. The man quickly gains the monarch's favor--as well as the envy of the chief counselor, who plots to bring him down by accusing him of embezzlement. A search of the elderly man's home reveals a secret room, but instead of containing plunder as the wicked counselor has suggested, it's empty except for some sand and a small window--a place, the man tells the king, where he can retreat to remind himself that he's still the same simple fellow he always was. The story's message--that wealth and power don't have to corrupt, and that the measure of true wisdom is humility--carries echoes of many classic fairy tales, but the fresh delivery is Shulevitz's own. All ages. (Oct.)
School Library Journal
Gr 3 Up-A picture book of riddles, wordplay, and royal intrigue. When the king rewards a wise man's cleverness by appointing him treasurer, a villainous counselor accuses him of stealing gold and hiding it in his house. A mysterious secret room turns out to be where the treasurer goes to reflect on his good fortune and not get ``too full of'' himself. The writing is economical and concrete. Unfortunately, the gentle message about tempering gratitude with humility doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the tale and isn't one that will be comprehensible (or of interest) to youngsters. Shulevitz's artwork is superb. Bright, angular, stylized figures move in a timeless, dreamlike atmosphere and his use of light, shadow, and color to convey mood is extraordinary. Since this effort is unquestionably an artistic and literary success, many libraries will want to buy it. But is it a book children will like? Probably not.-Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374465964
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
09/27/1996
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
12.00(w) x 4.58(h) x 0.09(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

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