CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 8 . . . . December 14, 2001
Zeman returns to the powerful tales of Sindbad, with this sequel to her lavishly illustrated Sindbad: From the Tales of the Thousand and One Nights, which was shortlisted for two national awards, the Mr. Christie's Book Award and Governor General's Literary Awards. These magical tales are among the Arabian Nights stories that Shahrazad tells to entrance the wicked king and thereby save her life. Again using the frame of a story within a story, Sindbad the Sailor relates his adventures to Sindbad the Porter, thereby employing the immediacy of an exciting first- person narrative.
Using patterns and motifs from ancient Persia, Zeman has adorned each picture with intricate borders, conveying the appearance of magnificent Persian carpets. These richly textured tapestries softly shimmer as Sindbad describes his ill-fated voyage (actually the third of the seven voyages described in the Arabian Nights). His ship is blown off-course and becomes overrun with hundreds of murderous monkeys; the shipwrecked crew is captured by a gigantic man-eating beast; and after he and one companion swim to safety, his companion falls prey to a dragon-sized serpent. Managing to save himself, Sindbad is discovered and is about to be killed when his incredible story amazes his captors, and they spare his life. Zeman concludes with a cliff-hanger ending, promising the story of his last voyage after a rest. An author's note and hand-drawn map provide the story's geographical and fictional framework. As with Zeman's celebrated trilogy of picture books retelling the Gilgamesh epic, readers of all ages can look forward to a third book continuing the miraculous tales of Sindbad's voyages.
A note of caution: Not for the faint-hearted, these wondrous tales are the strong stuff of the oral tradition, where beasts tear men to pieces and are vanquished by being pierced through the eyes with bamboo rods. These horrific events are relayed in a matter-of-fact manner, and Zeman's illustrations capture moments just outside the event so that the horror is minimized without compromising the story. Although some sensitive children may find these images disturbing, they are an integral part of Sindbad's compelling adventures which have captured the imaginations of generations of readers.
Alison Mews is the Director of the Curriculum Materials Centre at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, NF.
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