by Mariella Bertelli
What better way to celebrate the millennium than by honouring the spirit of adventure and exploration in the classic stories? Ludmila Zemanís Sindbad transports us back in time to a faraway land, a time when adventurers depended upon the power of the wind to explore the world by sea, and upon elephants and camels in their desert treks. Beautiful, exotic landscapes and cruel seas provide the background for this fairy tale book, which offers young readers an opportunity to see and experience Sindbadís extraordinary voyages.
In Zemanís retelling, Sindbad jumps from riches to poverty, from doom to fortune countless times, in a swirl of events as unpredictable as the currents of the sea. Sindbad encounters a whale, is shipwrecked, lost, carried across the sea by a gigantic bird into a cave filled with serpents. But regardless of his fear and horror, Sindbad is always able to use his ingenuity to overcome all odds and, with the help of fate, to return safely homeóhis status and wealth significantly augmented.
Award-winning Ludmila Zeman, best known for her wonderful rendering of the Gilgamesh cycle, handles this material from the great oral tradition equally well. Identifying the first reference to these stories as Persian tales, Zeman recreates with her magnificent paintings a style and design reminiscent of Persian carpets. Most of the illustrations are framed by detailed and intricate borders. Her tableau-like textured tapestries abound with imagery of ancient times and are imbued with gold and embroidery, the sun, the moon, and the stars, whose sparkling light instills a sense of magic and timeless beauty. These illustrations are rich and dense, appealing to our senses of touch and vision. Itís no wonder the book received a nomination for the Governor Generalís Award.
Her simple, straightforward narrative voice and use of dialogue make the story come alive in the present; the events retold reverberate with the urgency of the moment, compelling the readers to read on as if they were on a journey of discovery paralleling Sindbadís. Zemanís respect for the material is evident in the extensive research she has done and in her strong interpretation.
The authorís decision to include a frame narrative appropriately places Sindbadís voyages within the great storytelling tradition. Although Sindbad is the protagonist of this book, it is Shahrazad who is the one who triumphantly gallops across the sky, defeating death with the power of story.
Zeman relates only the first voyage, making this picture book version easily accessible to a younger audience. There are six more tales. We can only hope that Zeman will continue on this wondrous storytelling journey.