Disguised in servant's clothes, an Afghani shah slips out of his palace to learn more about his people. When he encounters a poor Jewish shoemaker full of faith that everything will turn out just as it should, the shah grows curious. Vowing that no harm will befall the poor man, he decides to test that faith, only to find that the shoemaker's cheerful optimism cannot be shaken. But the biggest challenge of the poor man's life is yet to come! Ann Stampler's retelling of this classic Afghani Jewish folktale is enriched by Carol Liddiment's charming and vivid paintings.
Grades K-3. In a break from the usual folktale archetypes of the cruel ruler who bullies a poor rebel, both the Muslim shah and the Jewish shoemaker in this tale are happy and good. Disguised as a servant, the shah walks through the streets of Kabul to find out how his poor people live. Curious about why the shoemaker is so happy, the ruler passes a law that no one can repair shoes in the street. Unperturbed, the shoemaker becomes a water carrier, and when that is forbidden, he cuts wood. His wife worries, but the man continuously feels blessed, his faith unshaken. In a tense climax, the shah makes the poor man a royal guard with a sharp sword, but when the shoemaker refuses to use the weapon, the shah brings the poor man to the palace and makes him a royal adviser. With the dramatic standoffs, readers will enjoy the uncluttered, double-page spreads and bright, detailed collage images that show the contrasts between palace and street. A long author’s note fills in some history of the Jews in Afghanistan.