“Sticks and stones” gets a novel outing in this lush picture book based on a medieval legend. The original tale concerns an important Jewish adult who lived during the Golden Age of Spain. Here, author Jules translates the action to two young boys, one Jewish, Samuel, one Muslim, Hamza, to demonstrate the hurtful power of words and a peaceful way to change anger to friendship. Unwittingly, Samuel annoys Hamza twice in an hour; Hamza refuses Samuel’s apologies and lashes out with nasty name calling. Samuel seeks solace from his father, the vizier, the highest royal advisor, who tells his son that he must solve his own problem and further, ensure that Hamza will “never say a mean word again.” Samuel is as afraid to disobey his father but he is flummoxed by a way to solve the issue. With humor and age-appropriate logic, Samuel tries out different ideas on a daily basis to coax Hamza from his bullying. Without realizing it, the constant contact turns the two boys into friends. Samuel gains a pal, obeys his father and delivers a lovely moral lesson. The illustrations capture the boys, their emotions, the action, and the setting’s time and place in graceful, artistic, evocative style. Colors and designs draw readers into long ago and far away while the plot and dialog salute the timeless human condition. Highly recommended as a strong Jewish addition to a library or home “bully issue shelf” and recommended to ages 5 to 7 as a charming tale.
Never Say a Mean Word Again: A Tale from Medieval Spain
Ellen G. Cole, the librarian of the Levine Library of Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, is a past judge of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards and a past chairperson of that committee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excellence in Jewish Children’s Literature. Ellen is the recipient of two major awards for contribution to Judaic Librarianship, the Fanny Goldstein Merit Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroeder Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries of Southern California. She is on the board of AJLSC.
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