Friday, November 13, 2009
Picture books by Idries Shah
I...don't get it.
Nope, still lost.
Okay, I normally don't read other reviews of a book until after I have written mine, to make sure my review is all mine. This time, though, I had to wonder if maybe there was some sort of cultural barrier, so I googled. Oh, my! What a spate of controversy surrounding Mr. Shah and eastern religion and whether anyone was really directly descended from anyone else and a whole lot of other things I am not interested in getting into for a picture book review!
So, I'll just concentrate on the books themselves, and go back to my first comment: huh? I mean, I understood the stories - they are very simple. I understood the morals - they are often literally spelled out for you. I just didn't see how the moral matched the story. Or how the story was actually supposed to teach anything. It's like hearing someone say, "Yesterday, it rained, and I splashed in puddles," to which you are supposed to nod sagely and say something like, "yes, water makes wetness," and this will somehow cause you to be a more enlightened person.
Let's take "The Boy Without a Name", for example. When the young man is born, a wise man tells his parents he is very important, and they must not give him a name, they must wait for him to do it at a later date. They agree without question, calling him "Nameless" (which to me would be a name, but, whatever.) One day he asks a friend for his name, but the friend doesn't want to give it up for nothing. Nameless (see? He capitalizes it - it's a name!) says he has a dream he can give away, and they run to the wise man, who lets Nameless pick a name from a box, and both of them pick a dream from another box and then everybody is happy. The end.
I just have to say one more time...HUH??? So, what was so important about the kid? What is so special about the name? Why make him and his parents wait if he's just going to pick one from a box? What's up with the friend and the dreams, which we never learn anything about? The jacket cover says it teaches kids about patience and tenacity, but I just don't see that happening. We received this whole set free from Hoopoe Press, and I hate to criticize the entire collection, but - I just can't recommend these to anyone. Since we have them, we will go ahead and put them out for circulation, in the hopes that maybe it is just me and my western brain not 'getting it'. If anyone has a different experience or take on the books, we would love to hear it!