Elise Bellin, Librarian of the Islamic Resource Center, wrote this book review as part of an ongoing series that focuses on a range of books within the IRC collection as a service to the community.

Hosni the Dreamer

Hosni the Dreamer by Ehud Ben-Ezer, pictures by Uri Schulevitz © 1997 – ISBN: 0374333408

Today’s children’s book is a bit of an older title, but one that I believe we can learn from. But you can be the judge.

In the fable, Hosni is a shepherd, one that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest. While the others are concerned with the here and now, with jokes, with what they’d do or what they have done with money, and with the expedient route, Hosni dreams of adventure, of travel, of a better life. He is gentle and loving, unafraid to talk to his sheep, despite the ridicule he incurs, and interested in listening to those around him and learning from them. When he is overheard talking to his sheep about his hopes and dreams – because let’s face it, who else is he going to talk to out in the middle of nowhere – he becomes an object of ridicule. Obviously his hopes and dreams are foolish, for who would ever talk to a sheep and why would anyone want to be anything but a shepherd? So begins Hosni’s journey toward his destiny and the shepherds’ fate. Complete with a maiden to save and a mysterious wise old man with a prophetic verse, with temptations and rewards for staying true, this tale has all the hallmarks of a classic fable.

The problem isn’t new either when it comes to children’s books or to the real world. The repetition of individuals not listening to, or respecting, someone simply because they think or act a little differently is a pattern that we can all relate to at some point in our lives, whether we are culprit or casualty of the slight. It is something we see on both big and little stages in our lives and that we should probably strive to overcome. Just because someone is different doesn’t mean they are worth more or less. But listening to them could save all of our lives.

It should be noted that the author, Uri Shulevitz, is a well-known illustrator and Caldecott medalist, for those that keep track of such things, and all of that skill and care with which he is known did come to bear in this book. His beautiful scenery with its towering stones, minarets, and cityscape, his wonderfully expressive figures with beautiful textile patterns and bold gestures, all done in shades of orange and blue, lend a wonderful air to the piece. Not to be missed by any age.

Founded in 2010, the Islamic Resource Center (IRC) is the first Islamic public lending library in Wisconsin. The IRC aims to provide resources to educators, students, health professionals, interfaith groups, and any members of the Milwaukee community that want an accurate understanding of the Islamic faith, its practices, and its people.