The Beaufort County Library's "One County Reads One Country" program features the culture of the Middle East, especially Afghanistan. The library has books on many stories from the Middle East that have been told and retold to young and old alike. The stories continue to remain popular because of the universal themes and experiences held by children of many cultures.
"The Golden Sandal," by Rebecca Hickox
This version of the Cinderella story features a young girl named Maha who is forced to work by her stepmother until she is helped by a wish-fulfilling fish. On the eve of the town's celebration, Maha loses her golden sandal while rushing home. Of course, the sandal fits no other girl in the village, and Maha is later blessed with seven children and a happy future. Children will enjoy the watercolor illustrations -- especially the humorous one depicting a surprised and disgraced stepsister.
"The Silly Chicken," by Idries Shah
A clever visitor teaches a chicken to speak. When the chicken claims "the earth is going to swallow us up," villagers are so startled to hear a chicken speak that they begin to spread the word in neighboring towns while attempting to run away from the perceived disaster. Children will laugh at the images of people trying to run "down the world and up the world and around the world" on a double-page spread showing people floating in outerspace, and attempting to shove the camels up mountains before the people finally question the chicken's prediction. When they finally ask the chicken "How do you know the earth is going to swallow us up?" The chicken replies simply, "I don't know." As the people laugh in realization of how silly they were to take advice from a chicken, he becomes the appointed jester and storyteller of the village.
"The Clever Boy and the Terrible Dangerous Animal," by Idries Shah
A favorite among storytellers, this story is part of the oral tradition from the Middle East and is more than 1,000 years old. When a village boy hears of a "dangerous animal," his bravery leads him to discover that it isn't an animal at all. Children will enjoy the story's surprise and bright bold illustrations. For a different listening experience, play the book's CD to listen to the story and a sampling of music from the Middle East.
"Afghan Dreams: Voices of Young Afghanistan," by Tony O'Brien and Mike Sullivan
Powerful photographs of Afghanistan's children are juxtaposed with stories of the youth's daily activities and hopes for the future. The reader will be able to relate to the common childhood interests and concerns while gaining an appreciation for another's point of view.
Melinda Vest is the youth services manager of the Bluffton Branch of the Beaufort County Library.