Monday, January 23, 2017

Avoiding Mean Words with Lemons

Picture Book: Never Say a Mean Word Again:                                                A Tale from Medieval Spain
Author: Jacqueline Jules
Illustrator: Durga Yael Bernhard
Summary: This delightful story is about conflict resolution. Two boys live in a castle community. Their social status are different which leads to important dynamics in their relationship.
Samuel is the son of the vizier, a revered advisor to the king. He dresses in fine clothes.
Hamza is the son of a tax collector. He has less status and resents the rich boy. 
Despite innocent intentions, Samuel physically insults Hamza twice in one day. 
Samuel apologizes, but their different social status leads Hamza to believe the insults were intentional. Hamza verbally and publicly insults Samuel. 
The vizier compels his son to take care of the matter and make sure “Hamza never says a mean word to you again.” 
Samuel has a few silly ideas that involve physically preventing Hamza from speaking. 
However, in a series of daily interactions, Samuel’s punishing intentions are misinterpreted and Hamza believes Samuel wants to play. The first day Samuel shows up with a lemon to force feed Hamza. 
Instead, Hamza thinks it is an apologetic laundry remedy and suggests they play ball with the lemon. They do and have great fun.
Their play continues for days, and the boys become close friends. The vizier is pleased because Samuel made sure Hamza never said a mean word to him again.
Hanna’s Comments: I like this story, but I offer a warning. It is easy to confuse the 2 boys. I recommend distinguishing them before you begin reading so their differences are understood at the start of the story. 
Differences include status, dress, economics, & religion - Samuel is Jewish. Hamza is Muslim. This is not in the text but mentioned in the book jacket. There is a detailed Author’s Note in the back that gives you historical context and will help with your discussion. The message here is the benefit of time together to build relationships. 
Differences in politics, religious doctrine, and culture too often divide us. Too often assumptions are made that are unfounded and lessons we can learn from each other are lost or misconstrued.
I believe talking to children about ways to question assumptions, overcome resentment, and bridge divides will make for more functional communities now and in the future. Our world (and our faith communities) desperately need this.
Original Publisher & Date: World Wisdom Inc, 2014
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 6 and up, 1st and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections:  The jealous relationship between Joseph and his brothers in Genesis 37 offers some biblical grounding to this story. AND Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It doesn’t insist on its way; it’s not irritable or resentful (1 Corinthians 13: 4b, 5); Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32); For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder (James 3:16)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children or youth in your faith family in a lesson on jealousy, kindness, friendship, or forgiveness. Consider making a game of throwing lemons and then making lemonade together. Explain the saying “making lemonade from lemons.”