Saturday, June 12, 2010

Joha Makes A Wish: A Middle Eastern Tale

Joha Makes a Wish: A Middle Eastern Tale
written by Eric A. Kimmel; illustrated by Omar Rayyan
(Marshall Cavendish Books for Kids) 2010
Source: Graham Public Library
** A special thank you to Betsy Bird. Her review is where I first learned about this book. Click and read the review. You'll be glad you did.

When you talk about folktales in North Carolina, you have to mention the Jack Tales. Jack is a kind but not always wise character who usually wins out in the end. While I was reading Joha Makes a Wish, I thought about the Jack Tales and how Joha would make an excellent contrast with Jack. Joha is a similar type character from Middle Eastern folklore.

In the book, Joha is walking to Baghdad when he stops to take a rest against a ruined wall.  The wall gives way and reveals a sealed jar.  Inside the jar are a stick and a scroll.  The scroll explains that Joha has found a wishing stick. His first wish is for a pair of red leather slippers. Unfortunately, his own slippers disappear when he makes this wish. Whatever Joha wishes for, the opposite happens. To add to Joha's troubles, a troop of the sultan's guards travel by and wonder why Joha does not wish a long life for the sultan like other citizens are doing.  Joha explains that he is having trouble with his wishes and does not want to do harm to the sultan. The sultan overhears this and tells Joha not to worry. He can make a smaller wish for the sultan.  This leads to more trouble for Joha who then has to make his escape.
A wise shopkeeper hides Joha and then explains why he is having trouble with his wishes. Like Jack, Joha comes out on top in the end, but not before one more encounter with the sultan.

Teachers I have worked with in the past like to read books that are sweet and tug at the heartstrings. I tend to avoid those and go with humor. Joha Make a Wish is extremely funny. Kimmel's retelling and Rayyan's illustrations are terrific. I especially like Joha's facial expressions. He is an everyman type character that we can all make a connection with. Add this book to your folktale collection. You can read a Jack tale with Joha and create a Venn Diagram comparing the two characters. Another purpose for this book is to list how many different variations Eric A. Kimmel uses for the word "said". Joha would be a good mentor text for "putting said to bed."

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