Multicultural picture books that include an aspect of history are always a welcomed addition to my library. Too many primary aged children have a minimal exposure to life in earlier times. Authors, such as Jacqueline Jules, open the door to historical inquiry while simultaneously sharing a message. In Never Say A Mean Word Again: A Tale From Medieval Spain, children learn the importance of friendship while also getting a small taste of life in the Middle Ages.
Jacqueline uses her creative writing skills to adapt a medieval legend about the Jewish poet, Samuel Ha-Nagid (993-1055) to a youthful audience. In this version, Samuel’s unintentional behavior causes Hamza to become bent out of shape. Hamza retaliates with name-calling. Samuel’s father intervenes by asking his son to make sure that Hamza never said a mean word to him again. Some of Samuel’s ideas will cause a chuckle. A monkey holding Hamza’s lips shut is amusing.
The conflict is resolved via peaceful means. Readers will be able to relate to the difficulties associated with childhood conflicts and how Samuel and Hamza’s growing friendship healed their rift.
Durga Yael Bernhard’s illustrations highlight the key passages of the story and help non-readers follow along. An Author’s Note provides information pertaining to the original story and some historical events associated with medieval Spain. The story’s text and pictures, however, do not reveal that Samuel is Jewish and Hamza is a Muslim. If the Author’s Note was skipped, readers would miss out on the multicultural dimension to the story.
Parents and teachers who are looking for a picture book that showcases how a little kindness can go a long way toward repairing a relationship, should consider reading Never Say A mean Word Again: A Tale From Medieval Spain.
In exchange for an honest review and an interview, Jacqueline sent me an uncorrected advance galley of Never Say A Mean Word Again: A Tale From Medieval Spain.