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The Wooden Sword: A Jewish Folktale from Afghanistan
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The Wooden Sword: A Jewish Folktale from Afghanistan

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  75 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
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 sh ...more
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by Albert Whitman Company
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Apr 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, the illustrations are nice, and this is a good example of that tradition Kurt Vonnegut talks about (which Americans don't have) of honoring the poor wise man. On the other hand, I couldn't help being irritated by the glorification of poverty and the poor man's Candide-esque assertions that it didn't matter whether he had enough money to buy food, because his faith would get him through. (And of course, when his wife is concerned about how they w ...more
Lynda Shoup
This folktale from Afghanistan is a welcome addition to the folktale section. Of special remark is the last page in which the author documents her sources and the way in which this version was vetted for authenticity. This page could be very useful as an example about how it should be done. This is one I'll add to my purchase list.
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
The moral of this Jewish folktale is to make the best of whatever situation you're in, and have faith that all will turn out well, "as it should". What an entertaining reminder to think positive! I liked the poor man's creativity, quick thinking, and willingness to try new things. Highly recommended!
The illustrations are rich with detail and the story flows nicely; between the shah's actions and the shoemaker's attitude there is lots to talk about here. PLUS it's well-researched, and sourced & cited thoroughly.
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
Beautifully retold by Stampler and beautifully illustrated. Definitely one book to add to a collection of folk tales.
Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Delightful folktale about wisdom and contentment.
Alethea A
Feb 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-book
Of all her books, this is definitely my favorite.
Apr 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a very nice folktale from Afghanistan about faith, humility, and kindness. I'm not big into folktales, but I did enjoy this one.
Mackenzie Frederick
Dec 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Genre: Traditional Literature
One Unique Feature: This book is a great way to show students the differences in traditional literature between different cultures while also highlighting the similiarities to draw comparisons and create a sense of common ground with a group of peoples they may have never met. It's also a great way to diversify your classroom library and represent more people.
Grade Level: I would read this book with 3rd to 6th graders and I would probably put it in my classroom libra
Sparrows at Home
We read this book as part of our study of Afghanistan.

It tells the story of a Jewish man with so much faith and resourcefulness, that whatever the shah (who was posing as a poor traveler) did to test the man's faith, he would always overcome his trial. The shah recognized this and rewarded the man.
Stephen Stopper

Title: The Wooden Sword: A Jewish Folktale from Afghanistan
Author: Ann Redisch Stampler
Illustrator: Carol Liddiment
Genre: Non-European Folktale
Theme(s): Jewish, Folklore, Kings and Queens, Rulers
Opening line/sentence: “One starry night in old Kabul, the good shah couldn’t fall asleep. He stretched and he yawned and he rolled out of bed.”
Brief Book Summary: This book follows the shah as he is walking around when he comes upone a house in the poorest section of the poorest street where he hears la
Kelly Merfford
Sep 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: educ-422
This folktale is based on a traditional idea that a poor man is thankful for what he has and does not yearn for more. A "good shah" takes to the streets of the common people and passes by the house of a poor man and his wife. He is amazed to see them laughing and smiling and stops in to ask them what they have to be happy for. Not believing that the man can be happy despite his lack of possessions, he returns to the castle and creates various laws that limit the man's job choices, to test the ma ...more
Oct 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The shah discovers a very happy couple living in the poorest house in Kabul. He decides to test the poor man's faith in God by preventing him from earning a living. Each time, the poor man finds a way to buy dinner. Finally, his prayer to his God at a critical moment convinces the shah that he is genuinely faithful. He makes the poor man a royal adviser because of his wisdom.

This book would be appropriate to share as a read aloud with children between four and six years old. Children that enjoy
Each of the aspects of this picturebook that stood out for me were also ones that Stampler mentions in her author's note! First, both negative characters (the bullying shah and the whining peasant) from some versions of this folktale have become positive ones (a change that's best, if paradoxically, appreciated by readers who know these versions). Second, although the peasant attributes his successes to a deity, his real rescuer is a combination of his own thoughts and actions and the circumstan ...more
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I thought this would be a great book to read to my 5 year old....but much to my surprise it was my 3 year old whom I would find sitting and paging through while I was cleaning or getting dinner ready. I loved the illustrations and the overall story...I do enjoy a happy ending and apparently so do the author - she mentioned in an "author's note" at the end that the European version of this story the rich man was a bully an the poor man was sour. I agree, the changes she made were delightful. My s ...more
Jun 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This folktale is a story of one man’s faith in God to overcome all. His faith is witnessed by a Afghani shah who devises a series of tests and trials determine if his faith is true. Illustrated in warm bright colored pencil drawings that not only add accurate cultural aspects but serve to keep the mood light, for a heavy topic. Excellent book for displays of different religions and cultures, not for story time.
Sean Dugan-Strout
Dec 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children, traditional
This Jewish folktale is a wonderful retelling by Ann Redisch Stampler, that presents issues of faith and bullying in a bright and colorful way. I especially liked the artwork; the acrylics on the pages make the story pop out. She uses beautiful and vibrant colors. It's nice to see Afghan tradition in children's literature.

This is a Jewish folktale from Afghanistan. With fun, brightly colored illustrations, it tells the story of a poor Jewish shoemaker. An Afghani shah tries to test the poor man's faith, but every time things turn out as they should. Back matter includes a lengthy author's note.
Taylor Troncin
This book was read for Wesley’s summer reading club. Wesley is my (soon to be five year old) son. This review is what we used for his reading club.

This was an interesting story. It was a bit long for Wesley's attention span (he wanted to go play on the computer).
Amanda Taylor
Sep 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: folklore
This was a cute book and most children would love it. It referenced God, belief, and faith so it probably shouldn't be a book in a public classroom.
Oct 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Such an intriguing Jewish story from Afghanistan. I also appreciated Stampler's author note, telling how she got interested and researched the background for writing this story.
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Edward Sullivan
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Aug 26, 2012
Benji Martin
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Mar 12, 2013
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Ann Redisch Stampler is the author of the young adult novels Afterparty and Where It Began as well as half a dozen picture books. Her work has garnered an Aesop accolade, the National Jewish Book Award, Sydney Taylor honors, the Middle East Book Award, and Bank Street Best Books of the Year mentions. How to Disappear (Simon Pulse, 2016), her first young adult thriller, will be released in June. An ...more
More about Ann Redisch Stampler