CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 20 . . . . June 9, 2000
For thousand and one nights, Shahrazad charmed the king with her tales. He forgot his cruel ways, and ordered his craftsmen to weave the stories into the finest colored silk carpets. The elaborate patterns they made with golden threads would be admired by people around the world, and the stories would never be forgotten.Ludmila Zeman is determined to introduce modern Canadian children to the marvelous tales of old. She garnered admiration and awards for her illustrated trilogy of the Gilgamesh epic, the oldest story known to man. She has now turned her celebrated talents to one of the best-known stories from the Arabian Nights; that of the voyages of Sindbad the Sailor. She begins by introducing Shahrazad, a clever storyteller who cures the wicked Sultan of his custom of taking a young wife each night and having her beheaded the next day. Offering herself as a wife, she weaves stories so exciting that, when dawn comes, he stays her execution so that she can continue them the next night. This behaviour continues for 1001 nights, by which time he is so enthralled that he abandons his brutal ways, thus attesting to the powerful influence of storytelling.
Zeman actually combines two of Sindbad's voyages: the first voyage where he is shipwrecked after landing on a beautiful island, only to find it is the back of a gigantic and now furious whale; and the second where he uses his wits to escape from the Valley of Diamonds and its deadly snakes. Zeman weaves these separate voyages into a seamless whole; leaving out the uninteresting parts of each voyage. She has done an admirable job of keeping the first-person narrative fast-paced and exciting while maintaining a formality of speech that convincingly recreates Sindbad's ancient time.
Zeman has carefully composed the pictures in her trademark style of richly detailed drawings in earthy tones of browns and blues. For this story, because she has framed them with designs taken from Persian carpets, they have the appearance of intricate tapestries. An author's note provides the mixture of fact and fiction that characterizes Sindbad's story and gives readers a glimpse into the background research behind the pictures. The combined effect of lavish illustrations and an exciting adventure tale will captivate modern readers as it did the Sultan, and they will eagerly await the further voyages of Sindbad from Ludmila Zeman.
Alison Mews is the Director of the Curriculum Materials Centre, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of NF.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.