Friday, April 3, 2009

Clever Ali - Nancy Farmer

Illustrator: Gail de Marcken
For: Kids with the ability for sit for a longer read aloud
Rating: 4.5
Endpapers: intricate brown & white scenes covering the page completely

from In Praise of Books

A book is a garden you can hold in your hand,
An orchard you can take on your lap.

A book is a companion who sleeps
Only when you are asleep,
and speaks only when you wish him to

A book is a tree that lives long
And bears delicious and abundant fruit
That is easy to pick and perfectly ripe
At all tiimes of the year.

A book obeys you by night and by day,
Abroad and at home,
It has no need of sleep
And does not grow weary from sittting up.

-----born in Basra in 776

The illustrations and text are all framed. de Marcken uses patterns from mosaics, woodwork, plaster, and marble from Cairo's mosques and Islamic antiquities. Calligraphic symbols are part of some of the framing. Very detailed, very lovely.

The story takes us into the two-wife household of the sultan's royal carrier pigeon keeper - a very important and prestigious job. Ali has four younger brothers and when he turns seven he moves from the women's part of the house to the men's part of the house. He also goes to work at the palace with his father to learn how to tend the pigeons. The story unfolds the same as one of Jahazarad's Arabian Night Tales would - with elements of magic and cruelty, where ingeniousness is needed to get out of a life-threatening jam. It's a long story, so well-suited for older readers and listeners.

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