Sindbad In the Land of Giants:From the Tales of the Thousand and One Nights

by retold and illustrated by Ludmila Zeman
32 pages,
ISBN: 0887764614

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Children's Books
by Jeffrey Canton

Accomplished artist and storyteller Ludmila Zeman continues her retelling of Sindbad the Sailor and his wondrous voyages in this second book in her Sindband trilogy taken from the Tales of the Thousand and One Nights. Sindbad in the Land of Giants begins in the comfort of Sindbad's sumptuous home in ancient Baghdad, among riches and delights. Like Shahrazad in the Arabian Nights, Sindbad feels compelled to tell his stories, to share his excitement in the memories that these stories evoke and also in order to live anew the adventures. Stories keep us alive and re-telling them renews our spirit and confirms our experiences.

As the sun rises on golden Baghdad at the beginning of the book, another tale starts, another voyage begins. No longer merely an adventurer but a successful and wealthy merchant, Sindbad sits on satin pillows, sipping flavoured tea, recounting his incredible travels. While he recounts his story to the humble Porter, an attentive listener, the images of his reminiscences come alive. And we the readers too fall under the spell, as words and pictures fill the page, painting lavish landscapes from another place and another time

With this second part of the Sindbad trilogy, Ludmila Zeman continues to weave her magic, her remarkable and skilled artist's hand and vision stunningly interpreting the story. The classic tales of Sindbad are revitalized by Zeman's refreshingly alive approach to the stories. The characters are caught in the moment, their faces and bodies fully expressing their emotions surprise, fear, horror or relief. Feelings are realistically depicted instilling in the viewer an immediate response and dramatically drawing the reader into the story. Zeman gives full range to the comical and picaresque aspect of the plot, revealing the hyperbolic nature of the Sindbad's stories with a wry humour so that even the most horrific scenes provide some comic relief. Clearly Zeman is intimately familiar and at ease with the material, achieving this time a lighter tone.

The illustrations are executed impeccably in the artist's well-established style; the mixed media used provide a layering effect rich in texture and detail. The compositions fluctuate between picture-perfect stillness to dramatized compositions offering close-ups or interesting perspectives. Borders reminiscent of Persian carpets and textiles finely frame each tableaux. The end paper includes as in the previous book, a map of Sindbad's voyages bound to awaken the spirit of adventure in any of us. The routes depicted are similar to the actual paths used by early Arab sailors and merchants.

Zeman also honours the literary origin of Sindbad with an endnote, which explains the story's context within Arabian Nights.

Children and adults alike will enjoy this book at many levels for its beautiful illustrations, its mesmerizing story and its enduring literary value.

Mariella Bertelli is a children's librarian and a member of Mary Contrary Associates in Toronto.


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