“When a storyteller dies, a library burns”

Posted by on Jun 3, 2016 in Reviews | 0 comments


The old Moroccan saying that Turk shares with readers, “When a storyteller dies, a library burns,” perfectly captures the message of his picture book: stories are life. In drought-stricken Morocco, at the edge of the Sahara desert, a thirsty child’s quest for water leads him to a fountain, where an old, forgotten storyteller sits. He captures the boy’s imagination with a tale, and by the time the man has finished speaking, the boy’s cup has miraculously filled with cool water. Day after day, the boy returns to the fountain, eager to hear more of the story. Meanwhile, a djinn draws near the parched kingdom, threatening to turn it back into desert. The boy—in a Shahrazad-like move—distracts (and defeats!) the djinn by sharing the storyteller’s tales, which simultaneously rejuvenates the city by bringing its people together and replenishing the kingdom’s wells.

Rich illustrations rendered in watercolor, ink, and pencil engulf the pages with desert golds and deep indigo, blending folk-art and contemporary styles. Double-page spreads dramatically illustrate kingdom’s forgetfulness and subsequent incursion of swirling sands, as well as the sapphirine return of water through life-giving words. Turk’s layered ode to storytelling’s magic begs to be shared aloud with a group, though the detailed art merits close inspection. A concluding author’s note on storytelling traditions contextualizes this beautiful, original folktale.— Amina Chaudhri

—Booklist, Starred Review star

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *