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RULER OF THE COURTYARD by Rukhsana Khan Kirkus Star


by Rukhsana Khan & illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Age Range: 6 - 10

Pub Date: March 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-670-03583-1
Publisher: Viking

The Pakistani setting provides an additional and timely dimension to this perfectly paced story. Saba is a little girl who finds power in confronting something even more frightening than the terrifying chickens of the courtyard, who threaten her with their “bony beaks, razor claws,” and “GLITTERY eyes.” There, in the “dim and calm and cool” respite of the bathhouse, she spies a “curled-up something” in the corner—could it be a deadly snake? If she screams, her Nani will come running and perhaps be bitten. She must take care of it herself, but how? A stick to kill it? A bucket to trap it? All Saba wants to do is “run and look for cover.” But she must act. At times the phrasing is staccato, “All is silent. All is still. / Not a movement, not a rustle.” Christie’s (Love to Langston, p. 48, etc.) bold and colorful illustrations show Saba’s feelings through her facial expressions and body language, and provide the balance between ambiguity and realism that the text requires. A spiral snake shape adorns the back cover, snake-like forms decorate the text, and even the road to Saba’s house is snake-like. Suspense, a positive message, and illustrations that show up across the room, make this a winner for reading aloud. (Picture book. 6-10)