Friday, April 29, 2011

The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale by Lucine Kasbarian, illustrated by Maria Zaikina

I adore folktales. I love storytelling and grew up in an area with a rich oral history. The idea of stories being passed down from generation to generation – that my children are hearing stories that other children across an ocean heard a hundred years ago is amazing. True – many are didactic – which normally turns me off in a children’s book, but folktales get a pass. It’s in their very nature to teach you some sort of lesson. Plus, the stories are often so well told and entertaining that it’s okay.

 The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale is retold by author Lucine Kasbarian, whose father told the story to her at bedtime when she was young. In the book, a sparrow gets a thorn in his foot. As he’s flying through the countryside, he happens upon a woman baking bread and asks her to remove the thorn. She happily obliges and the sparrow is on his merry way. However, he soon returns and demands that the baker return his thorn. When she says she threw it in the oven, he demands that she give him a loaf of bread in return. She does, and the sparrow files away, carrying a loaf of bread. The story repeats itself as the bird flies across the Armenian countryside, asking locals to keep an eye on whatever he has and demanding something in return when the original item invariably goes missing. At one point, he even finds himself with an Armenian bride. As folktales go, the greedy sparrow eventually gets his comeuppance. This is the part where readers realize the importance of sharing, being nice to your neighbors, etc.

The story is simple, yet very entertaining. The illustrations give the book an old-fashioned feel – what you would expect to see in Armenian villages of long ago. Word bubbles appear over the bird and the people he interacts with, offering ease in readability for young readers and a bit more interaction. Humorous facial expressions on animals and humans add a nice touch.

This is definitely worth checking out.

Buy Indie!

Reading level: Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Corp/Ccb (April 2011) | ISBN-13: 978-0761458210 | Source: Review copy from publisher

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  1. Thanks for the heads up about this, Jill! I was looking for a multicultural book for the One World, Many Stories summer reading program at our library and selected this, thanks to your review. The author also has a great activity guide to go with the book at

    - T. Pomodoro

  2. The best children book I've ever seen in my whole life so far!