The Wooden Sword: A Jewish Folktale from Afghanistan

Overview


Disguised in servant's clothes, an Afghani shah slips out of his palace to learn more about his people. When he encounters a poor Jewish shoemaker full of faith that everything will turn out just as it should, the shah grows curious. Vowing that no harm will befall the poor man, he decides to test that faith, only to find that the shoemaker's cheerful optimism cannot be shaken. But the biggest challenge of the poor man's life is yet to come! Ann Stampler's retelling of this classic Afghani Jewish folktale is ...
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Overview


Disguised in servant's clothes, an Afghani shah slips out of his palace to learn more about his people. When he encounters a poor Jewish shoemaker full of faith that everything will turn out just as it should, the shah grows curious. Vowing that no harm will befall the poor man, he decides to test that faith, only to find that the shoemaker's cheerful optimism cannot be shaken. But the biggest challenge of the poor man's life is yet to come! Ann Stampler's retelling of this classic Afghani Jewish folktale is enriched by Carol Liddiment's charming and vivid paintings.

A 2013 Sydney Taylor Honor Book for Older Readers

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Joella Peterson
In this Afghani tale a shah decides to disguise himself and slip out to see what his people are like. While dressed in his humble clothes he meets a happy shoemaker who is pleased to share what little he has. The shah wonders about the happiness and the next day makes it so that the shoemaker must find a new occupation in order to provide for his family. When the shah next visits the shoemaker (now a water carrier) the shah finds that the shoemaker is still just as happy. Soon the shoemaker (water carrier, woodcutter, and soldier) is tested before the shah (who is this time dressed as himself). And the shah is part surprised and part pleased that the shoemaker could find a miracle in all the trouble that was caused. This is a fine tale perfect for storytelling or reading aloud. The illustrations are bright and cheerful (like the shoemaker) and also show a bit of the Afghani culture. Readers will be as happy as the shoemaker to learn the ending of this rich tale. Reviewer: Joella Peterson
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—A shah decides to test a Jewish shoemaker's faith in God by outlawing each of the jobs he assumes, from shoemaker to water seller to woodcutter. The poor man eventually becomes a member of the royal guard, but can afford only a wooden sword. However, when he is told to behead a thief, he finds an ingenious way out of his predicament. The Afghani setting is reflected through the warm, earth tones and through the intricate patterns on rugs, clothing, and wall hangings in the background of the richly painted spreads. Despite the man's hardships, the simple yet elegant prose reinforces his optimistic refrain that "everything turns out just as it should." The lush, detailed backgrounds of the spreads bring to life the various settings, such as the marketplace where the man mends shoes and the shah's palace. Religious devotion is a theme throughout the story, but readers will be most drawn to the protagonist's cleverness rather than his piety. As a comprehensive author's note explains, the clothing and cultural traditions of the characters are historically accurate. Ideal for those looking to add ethnic diversity to their folktale collections.—Mahnaz Dar, formerly at Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City
Kirkus Reviews
An old Jewish folktale set in Afghanistan tests the faith and character of both a wealthy shah and a poor man. In old Kabul, the good shah leaves his lavish home disguised as a servant to discover whether the people of his country are "sad or happy, rich or poor, foolish or wise." In the poorest part of town, he encounters a young Jewish couple happily welcoming the Sabbath. Impressed with their attitude despite their humble circumstances, the shah questions the man's livelihood and decides to secretly challenge his never-failing faith by creating a series of decrees that will hamper the man's ability to earn "puli," or money. Each time, though, the former shoemaker succeeds in finding new work as a water carrier, woodcutter and royal guard. When, as a guard, the young Jew is made royal executioner and must cut off the head of a thief, both faith and wit save the day, and the shah finally understands the Jew's true ability to wisely carve out his path in life. Detailed, gently humorous paintings reflect the colorful richness of the Afghani traditional rugs, robes and turbans set against sandy mountainous backdrops. This tale of perseverance and confidence is told with well-researched authenticity and offers a positive view of this war-torn nation. (author's note) (Folktale. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807592014
  • Publisher: Whitman, Albert & Company
  • Publication date: 3/1/2012
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 1,472,162
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Ann Redisch Stampler has written several picture books based on Jewish folklore. She loves children's literature, particularly folktales and humor. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children. annredischstampler.com/

Carol Liddiment lives in England, in the Suffolk countryside with her two sons. As a child she spent much of her time riding horses and adopting wild animals! Now she spends her time illustrating books for children.

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