The Arabian Nights by Lebanese Author Wafa’ Tarnowska

The tale of Shahrazade and Shahriyar is a classic piece of literature that somehow was overlooked throughout my entire academic career.  It was not until I found a love of all things Middle Eastern that I came to know these tales.  As I began to read I recognized the characters of Aladdin, Sinbad and Ali Baba and the Seven Thiefs but still lacked the broader context of these stories.  Imagine my shame when my Moroccan husband dutifully recounted many of the tales.  As a lover of literature, and especially foreign literature I was excited to introduce this book to my kids.

This version of The Arabian Nights was compiled by Lebanese author Wafa’ Tarnowska.  Along with this book and The Seven Dancing Princess’ from Barefoot Books, Wafa’ has translated many books for Mantra Lingua a publisher of bilingual books.  As I began reading, it was clear that Ms. Tarnowska is a talented translator.  Many times translated works don’t make sense, in that they are out of context or missing key points.  Not the case with this book.

I handed this book to my kids before reading it just to gauge their reaction.  After a initial but brief “ew there’s a girl on the cover” they got over it and dug in.  My oldest son loves illustrations and spent a good deal of time just looking at the images.  I love the use of color and more abstract style of imagery in this book.  When reading it kept the attention of both kids (7 and 4) with lots of images and the format of the book.  Instead of one long book of stories it’s broken into chapters.  This helps as it is quite lengthy.  Although my son is almost 8 years old he did have a hard time reading this book by himself.  I think that for awhile this will remain a book read by me or my husband to the kids.

What I loved the most about this book was that it will serve as a good bond between my husband and the kids.  Many of the books I select to read to them are the books of my childhood.  I have a strong attachment to them and can tell them stories as we read about the books and when I was a little girl.  This is not the case for my husband.  However, he knows these stories and I’m hoping may even take it a step further and begin to tell them the stories in Arabic.

Overall, we really liked this book.  It’s a sturdy book, one to keep for years as a part of a library collection.  I had the hard cover version, but there is also a paperback available for purchase.

Disclosure: I was not compensated to write this review, however I did receive a free copy of this book to review.  All opinions are my own and were no way influenced by anyone other than my 2 boys.


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  1. perudelights says

    Growing up this was my favorite book. I read it when I was 10 years old but was already familiar with some of the tales. This book made me dream about a world full of magic, with genies and jewels, with wonderful food and amazing palaces. And, just like my mother did with me many years ago, I introduced my children to this fantastic book. I treasure the first copy I read, and I am glad I found your post about The Arabian Nights. Thanks so much!!!!

  2. says

    Thank you so much for sharing this link; I have not heard of this store but LOVE it.  I don't have a favorite yet to share but I have a feeling Evan might be getting a few books from here for his birthday!

  3. Sharifah says

    Hmm…favorite Barefoot book. Well I don't own any yet but I may have to get the "We're sailing on the Nile" because of our Egyptian roots. Also, I loved the Arabian Nights stories growing up and I hope the same for my children as well.

  4. Justine says

    It’s hard to choose my favorite Barefoot book. Every year we like to buy one new book for the holiday winter season. “Two Brothers/One City” and “The Miracle of the First Poinsetta” talk about peace and tolerance and wonder – perfect themes! I was an English major in college so I also like “Shakespeare’s Stories” – could be a fun way to “sneak” in some classic English lit.!