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

illus. by Durga Yael Bernhard. 32p. Wisdom. May 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781937786205.
K-Gr 2—Samuel accidently bumps into Hamza and further angers the boy when his goblet of wine tips over onto him. Samuel's father instructs him to "make sure Hamza never says a mean word to you again." Without meaning to, Samuel finds himself playing with Hamza day after day—a game of catch, a game of chess, a game of marbles—until they have become friends. At length, Samuel realizes that he has unwittingly achieved the goal his father set for him. None of this hangs together very well in Jules's episodic, purpose-driven telling, which, according to her author's note, was inspired by a medieval legend. The lesson that extending the hand of friendship is preferable to escalating tensions is certainly worth teaching, but it's not very tastily presented here. Bernhard's paintings incorporate decorative and architectural elements, lending a sense of the story's setting.—Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Library, NY

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