WHISPER OF THE EAST by Franziska Meiners


edited by ; illustrated by ; translated by
Age Range: 7 - 12
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A book of Arabic folktales and fables with minimalist illustrations, translated from the German.

Meiners attempts to provide readers with a story for each part of the Middle East—or, as she describes the region in her foreword, “Arabia.” Varying in length, each story offers a moral or a lesson as a window into the native cultures of its characters. Although some plotlines are familiar, others are unique, such as the Palestinian story “A Little Camel,” which takes readers into the underground world of the “Djinns,” or “The Old Pair of Shoes,” a story about a man who desperately tries to rid himself of his unlucky shoes. Visually it shines. Meiners’ style is minimalist and distinctive, using only cyan and magenta, sometimes overlaid to make brown, to create captivating illustrations. Culturally, however, it does not. While Meiners does offer some context to the stories and the region from which these tales are borrowed, her framing of the book around “Arabia”—a “magical world” and “distant lands”—falls into orientalist tropes of the Middle East that exoticize, simplify, and distort elements of the region’s cultures. On a more granular level, the book has gaps and errors. Despite the inclusion of a Palestinian story, Palestine does not appear on the appended map, and although Iran is on the map, there is no Iranian story; most Iraqis do not speak Persian, as a note asserts; and “djinn” is a plural noun already.

Beautiful but deeply flawed. (glossary, activities) (Folktales. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-7358-4323-3
Page count: 112pp
Publisher: NorthSouth
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2018


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