The Ghoul

Crocodile. Feb. 2020. 32p. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781623719258.
K-Gr 2–A young boy goes in search of a fearsome monster but finds a friend instead in this modern folktale about prejudice. Translated from Arabic, this is the story of Hasan the Brave, who, like everyone in his village, lives in constant fear of a “scary, ugly” monster. Not satisfied with his family’s answers about the creature, Hasan hikes to the mountaintop to see it firsthand. To his surprise, the ghoul (a one-eyed hairy purple creature) is a peaceful vegetarian and is just as scared of his human neighbors as they are of him! Hasan and the ghoul return to town as best friends, and the ghoul is welcomed and loved by the villagers. Unfortunately, the message of this tale is somewhat heavy-handed, and both the conflict and its resolution suffer. The villagers live in terror (tiptoeing around, speaking only in whispers) despite the ghoul never having harmed a soul. Later, the ghoul is quick to conclude, “it is true that you look strange and different, but you are nice.” The artwork is colorful, lively, and evocative, with stylized faces. Manasra makes excellent and engaging use of the page, from full-page bleeds to action-packed panels. Despite some flaws, the message is sincere and the book is a very welcome representation of a traditional Arab tale.
VERDICT A secondary purchase for classroom discussions about rumors and prejudices as well as for collections where folktales are popular.

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