HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Seven Voyages of Sinbad and Other Tales from the Arabian Nights
Author: Gladys Davidson
Illustrator: Irma Wilde
Publisher: Scholastic, republished in 1966
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Davidson, Gladys. The Seven Voyages of Sinbad and Other Tales from the Arabian Nights (published in 1959 by TAB Books Inc.; republished in 1965 by Scholastic Book Services, a division of Scholastic Magazines Inc., New York City, NY). Most people are somewhat, if vaguely, familiar with the tales of the Arabian Nights and their general background. The legend is that a Persian king would marry a wife, spend one night with her, and then have her head cut off, all because his first wife was unfaithful to him. However, when he married a clever woman named Scheherezade, she began telling him exciting stories in a continued series to forestall her execution, and after 1,001 nights of these stories, which came not only from Arabia but India, China, other parts of Asia, and even Africa, apparently collected over a period of time, the Caliph finally decided not to kill her.
Many different editions of these tales exist, and I have read that some of the older ones can be quite explicit and immoral. Concerning a version of Arabian Nights edited by Andrew Lang, our friend Dave Pratte in his Family Reading Booklist wrote, “A series of stories from ancient Arabian folklore, legends, and fantasy. Includes Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Seven Voyages of Sinbad, and Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp. Some interesting thoughts are presented, but much of it I found to be bizarre, fantastic foolishness.” This retelling by Gladys Davidson includes the three stories mentioned by Dave, plus two more, “The Enchanted Horse” and “Abou Hassan or the Caliph’s Jest.”
I tend to put the Arabian Nights stories, at least those which have been arranged for young people, into the same category as fairy tales. While some of them may have a few rather grim and grisly sections which would not be suited for very small or sensitive children, for the most part they contain many useful observations about life wrapped up in plots which easily attract and hold one’s attention. In addition, though they are obviously fantasy, much historical information about the daily life and times of the medieval Arabic world is also conveyed. Understanding them simply as fiction, I would tend to conclude that they are basically harmless.