October 11th 2016 by National Geographic Children's Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central
Since the original Tales from the Arabian Nights would include 1,001 stories, this is a well chosen selection of tales. Napoli does a good job at balancing well-known stories with more obscure tales, and also frames the stories within the larger story of Scheherazade's precarious position as a new wife whose life could be cut short by the king at any moment. It was great to have a solid retelling of old favorites Ali Baba, Aladdin, and Sinbad, but I was also glad to read about The Three Apples, The Ebony Horse, and Maaruf the Cobbler, which were new to me.
Napoli has done a number of these folk tale books, including ones on Norse, Greek, and Egyptian mythology. Her backgrounds as both a linguistics professor and scholar and as a writer of children's fiction work well together to present a well researched but highly readable overview of these Middle Ages tales from cultures from North Africa to South Asia.
The illustrations are brightly colored and support the stories well. They have a flavor of ancient Indian art or Persian miniatures, and this is carried out to good effect with the page decorations as well, which are rendered in bright colors of red, gold, and bright blue.
The addition of side bar information explaining topics such as Medicine in the Muslim World or the historical impact of wheat are also interesting and help readers to understand the stories. There is a very complete and helpful map at the end of the book, and a helpful index is included.
While Napoli's collections are fun to read for pleasure, they are complete, annotated, and formatted in a way that they are useful to readers who may need to do research as well. The D'Aulaires managed to combine these elements into beautifully crafted collections, but these new titles from Napoli definitely give those a run for their money!