Chil­dren’s

Nev­er Say a Mean Word Again: A Tale from Medieval Spain

Jacque­line Jules
  • Review
By – October 31, 2014

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.

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.

Discussion Questions