Archive for January 1st, 2015


by Sam Juliano

I am hereby proposing that the year’s picture book sleeper is Never Say A Mean Word Again, written by Jacqueline Jules with illustrations by Durga Yael Bernhard.  A moral lesson book based on a medieval legend, this Judaic work is written in direct and concise terms by Ms. Jules, who well understands that a heavy concentration on spoken dialogue for the kind of confrontational drama that is played out in Europe over a thousand years ago, is the best way to immerse student readers.  History from both Christian and Muslim sources tells us that Jews provided some valuable assistance to the Moors’ conquest of Spain.  The Iberian Jews welcomed the invasion, which eventually gave them opportunities to serve in supervisory positions, unheard of while under the auspices of the Christian Visigoths.  The region was considered an oasis of tolerance and opportunity, and in short order it attracted an influx of Jewish passage from all areas of Europe.  This social dynamic sets the stage for Jules’ interpretation of a Medieval legend about the Jewish poet Samuel Ha-Nagrid, who served at the vizier (the most influential royal advisor) in Muslim Grenada.  It is said that the King ordered severe punishment for cursing out the Jewish vizier.  Samuel responds by saying that he tore out the man’s “angry tongue” and replaced it with a “kind one.”  Jules was obviously fascinated with the idea of making a friend of one’s enemy.  The great irony of course -and a gloriously welcome one at that- is that Muslims embraced Jews as their friends, even going as far as to punish their own for insulting or disobeying their adopted brethren. (more…)

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