Thursday, 4 September 2014

Nasreddine, a children’s picture book with a side dish for mom

Nasreddine, is the endearing story about a young boy and his father Mustafa. A tale about wisdom and authenticity, not only beautifully written by Odile Weulersse but illustrated by – a personal favourite – RĂ©becca Dautremer. Dautremer’s artwork is so powerful yet full of delicate details, like scribbles and graffiti on the town’s walls.

As explained by a historical note at the end of the book, stories about Nasreddine are said to be based on a man who lived in Turkey during the Middle Ages and, while the age of the character changes from one story to another, it is always a reflection on wisdom and delight.

In this particular story, Nasreddine and Mustafa head to the market to sell their goods, the father rides on the donkey’s back and the boy walks behind. Before long, onlookers criticize the father because he is riding comfortably while the kid goes on foot. Embarrassed, the next time they go to the market, the son tricks the father into letting him ride the donkey, Mustafa patiently agrees and walks behind; yet people whisper as they pass by "look how the world works these days, the children ride and their elders walk behind. Fathers don't have authority after all”.

The story repeats itself, and no matter how they do it (dad rides, boy rides, nobody rides the donkey, they both ride the donkey) there is always someone judging them. Mustafa is always serene, the little one always ashamed; until the boy  in a desperate attempt to stop being laughed at  comes up with an idea that is just plain ridiculous and then the father shares his pearls of wisdom: “People can always find a reason to criticize you if they want to. It is up to you to decide if what you are hearing is wise, or if it it's only a silly and hurtful remark”.

You see, this is where I think there are books written for kids but with the hope that the message also comforts the mother that is reading it. And I say moms not as a sexist remark but because we, moms, tend to obsess more about what people think of our parenting skills but if the shoe fits to any dads out there too, by all means feel free to join me.
Being a parent is not always easy, it is hard enough without having to listen to relatives, friends and yes, nosy strangers, and their opinions on what we should or shouldn't do. So, next time somebody disapproves of how you raise your kids, answer calmly in the words of wise Mustafa: “Your words, kind sir, are hurting my ears” or just tell them to f**k off.

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