The Thousand Nights and One Night by David Walser and Jan Pienkowski
|The Thousand Nights and One Night by David Walser and Jan Pienkowski|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Spare, elegant words and evocative illustrations combine to produce a sumptuous retelling of the traditional stories. Highly recommended by The Bookbag.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 160||Date: October 2007|
|Publisher: Puffin Books|
If you're looking for a book to give to a child - any child - then you need search no further. There is, quite simply, no area in which this book is less than perfect.
David Walser's introduction sets the scene for the book, which is unusual in being a collection of stories within one story. The vengeful King Shahryar was deceived by his first wife and decides that he will never put himself in that position again. Each evening he takes a new bride and in the morning she is beheaded. Unsurprisingly it's not long before there's a shortage of young women and Shahrazade volunteers to be the next bride. She's a resourceful young woman who is skilled in the art of story telling and in the evening she tells a story, stopping at a moment of suspense. The king puts off her execution for another day so that he might hear more of the story. She does this for a thousand nights.
The stories, such as Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Aladdin's Lamp and Sinbad the Sailor are generally the stuff of pantomime, but Walser's text rises far above that level. For instance, the Widow Twanky of the stage version of Aladdin is replaced by the more traditional Widow TuanKee. The history of the stories goes back over five hundred years. Translated by an unknown Arab scholar and added to over the years they came to be as we now know them in about the fourteenth century, with some tales dating back to the seventh or eighth century. Walser found a Victorian edition in twelve volumes of Sir Richard Burton's translation from the Arabic and it is on this that the book is based. The text is elegant, spare and evocative. Even knowing the six stories I still felt compelled to keep turning the pages.
Illustrations generally support a story but in this case the silhouettes by Jan Pienkowski are a colourful elaboration of the tales. They're bright, intricate and wonderfully detailed. Pienkowski first heard the stories when he was a small boy in his native Poland and they have stayed with him over the years. He says that this has been his dream job as he traveled through the fabled cities filling a score of sketch books with drawings to jog his memory. The pictures tell the stories but above all they convey the East in all its glory and splendour.
I don't usually comment on the 'build quality' of books but here it must be mentioned. Printed on heavy-weight, semi-gloss paper with gilt edges and a silk bookmark, this is the type of book which will be treasured for years and handed on to future generations - and all for a very reasonable price.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of this book to The Bookbag.
If this type of book appeals to you then we can also recommend Gatty's Tale by Kevin Crossley-Holland. We think you'll also like In The Beginning by Jan Pienkowski and David Walser.
The Thousand Nights and One Night by David Walser and Jan Pienkowski is in the Top Ten Retellings of Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Thousand Nights and One Night by David Walser and Jan Pienkowski at Amazon.com.
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