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Goha The Wise Fool Hardcover – August 4, 2005
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 1-6–Goha, a folk character from the Middle East, is, by turns, a fool, a wise man, and a trickster in these 15 stories. Readers may find some tales familiar from other cultures, such as when Goha gets confused about whether he has 11 or 12 donkeys (depending on whether he is counting while astride or aside of one). Others are less well known, but equally entertaining, as in the tale of friends who try to convince Goha that they are expected for dinner. The protagonist turns the tables by selling their politely removed shoes to pay for the meal. An author's note describes the multiple countries laying claim to the character's origin and shows a photograph of the tentmakers in Cairo who designed and stitched the cloth illustrations, or khiyamiyas, for this book. Colorful caricatures are appliquéd onto a sand-colored background resembling linen; there is one for each tale. The stories contain interesting cultural insights about a part of the world unknown to many in the Western Hemisphere, while yielding universal truths. Although there is a variety of curricular possibilities, children would undoubtedly enjoy comparing this folk hero to his cousins Jack, Anansi, Coyote, or Brer Rabbit. And as a guidebook to survival strategies for challenging situations, there is none better.–Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Gr. 2-4, younger for reading aloud. In this spirited collaboration, a Middle Eastern trickster-fool is strikingly presented to American children. Johnson-Davies, a translator of Arabic texts who lives in Cairo, provides succinct retellings of 15 "Goha stories," which have been illustrated by a team of Cairo tent makers in the form of traditional khiyamiya tapestries, with bits of bright, solid-colored fabric stitched to roughly woven, oatmeal-toned backgrounds. Many of the tales expose familiar human foibles, as when Goha repurchases his own mule after listening to a dealer's glowing, exaggerated sales pitch for the beast. Others amusingly illustrate wise principles ("In life, it is impossible to please everyone") that belie Goha's deceptively hapless ways. Adults concerned about the authenticity of the materials used to facilitate cross-cultural understanding will welcome this pairing of text and art, but the bold, elemental artwork will sell itself; each scene exudes a comical energy, concentrated around Goha's plump, wide-eyed form, that will instantly put kids in a giggling mood. Johnson-Davies doesn't identify sources, but an endnote explains the tent-making tradition in Cairo (including a wonderful photo of the artists at work) and gives a concise overview of the memorable character's role in numerous Middle Eastern cultures. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Goha is a delightful mix of wisdom and folly, two characteristics often intertwined in folklore. The stories read like a comedian's monologue, there's a set-up involving such issues as Goha's domestic arguments with his wife, his encounters with unfamiliar settings and/or people, and his concerns with thieves and moochers, resolved by a short, one or two-line observation/punchline. Although Goha occasionally out-tricks the tricksters and gets direct, though mild revenge (as when some uninvited guests find that their shoes are missing because Goha sold them for the food that they ate, and Goha tells them, "Your shoes are in your stomach."), more often Goha simply turns his inquisitors' comments back on them. After swimming fully clothed because his clothes had previously been stolen on the river bank, his critics comment," How stupid of you...Whoever goes for a swim wearing all of his clothes?" "'Only someone who prefers ...wearing his clothes wet than have someone else wearing them dry." In a few stories, the closing is flat; the humor is neither clever nor funny: A thief makes off with all of their possessions when Goha and his wife settle an argument by seeing who can stay silent the longest. In the story illustrated on the book cover, Goha concludes that there are 19 geese instead of 20 because one of the 20 policemen didn't pick up a goose. Some of the stories work well as moral instruction; in others, however, the storyline seems diminished by the need to convey a message. In the best stories, such as when Goha buys back his own beloved but old donkey after hearing the donkey seller shout its praises, humor combines with Goha's folly and wisdom (sometimes, a naive wisdom) in a natural, unforced manner.
A brief afterward includes a photo of the two illustrators, Hag Hamdy (who drew the pictures) and Hany El Saed Ahmed, who sewed them into tapestries (in a district called the "Street of the Tentmakers"), and also tells more about the Goha character and the various cultures in which he appears. While the stories are a bit uneven, the pictures are unique and beautiful, and lovers of stories set in other lands will find much to enjoy here. Note: The book does not contain cloth material; rather, the tapestries are rendered on high quality paper that reveals the original materials, vivid colors, and texture-based detail.