Hilarious conundrums and subtle wisdom are the delightful hallmarks of this vibrantly illustrated children’s picture book based on a well-known character named Nasreddine—possibly fictional, or perhaps a real man who lived in Turkey during the Middle Ages. Stories about Nasreddine are still told throughout the Middle East today.
Young Nasreddine’s father, Mustafa, tells him to get the donkey from the stables so they can go to the market. Nasreddine willingly obeys. They load the donkey with a large basket of dates, and Mustafa rides on the animal’s back. Nasreddine, slippers in hand since the ground is muddy, follows behind holding the donkey’s tail. Near the city gate, they meet a vizier on a beautiful horse. The rich man announces his disdain for Mustafa for riding on the donkey while his son sloshes barefooted through the mud. Wise Mustafa answers calmly, “Your words, sir, are hurting my ears.” Young as he is, Nasreddine doesn’t know how to deal with the criticism, feeling only shame. He asks to return home because he doesn’t want people to make fun of them anymore.
As the weeks go on, necessitating more journeys to the market, Nasreddine and Mustafa face continual criticism even as the boy comes up with different solutions for traveling so people won’t laugh at them—Nasreddine rides the donkey while his father walks alongside; father, son, and chickens in cages ride the donkey; father and son walk while the donkey carries watermelons—but each time someone mocks their choice.
Distressed and perplexed, Nasreddine comes up with what he thinks is a perfect solution—he and his father will carry the donkey to the market. Finally, wise Mustafa points out that Nasreddine has repeatedly made a mistake. The boy claims innocence, saying he has listened to everyone. Then Mustafa teaches his son a crucial life lesson, “That’s exactly your mistake. People can always find a reason to criticize you if they want to.” Finally, Nasreddine understands: “You can’t be afraid that other people will judge you or make fun of you.”
Nasreddine is sure to be a book children will enjoy again and again. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers)