Haroun and the Sea of Stories
by Salman Rushdie, published 1991
“The dance of the Shadow Warrior showed him that silence had its own grace and beauty (just as speech could be graceless and ugly); and that Action could be as noble as Words; …”
As I began this fascinating novel, I was uncertain if I was reading a children’s book or a satire for adults. And it began slowly for me, almost like the very slow rhythm that begins a classical Indian raga…a little dull, somehow, as I didn’t know where we were going. Then, it began to pick up speed, and whirl and turn and dance until I couldn’t put the book down. And when it was over, I was ready to start it again.
To say that Salman Rushdie is a masterful storyteller is totally an understatement. He plays with language, he uses fantasy, parody, humor, drama, all mixed into one heroic tale that will captivate just about any age reader. Certainly adults will read into it way more than children will, as the references to freedom of speech and the importance of literature may escape a young reader, as will many of the puns, some of which are based on the Hindi language. No matter at which level the reader grasps the book, it is still terrific literature.
I noticed that many schools use this children’s book for their middle school reading classes…sixth grade and up. However, there are also high schools which use the same text. I found several very interesting study guides for the book, one here and one here. Even if you are not reading it in a school setting, the guides are helpful in showing where to have conversations with your children about the book.
There are plenty of summaries of the plot on line, so I won’t add to the list, but suffice it to say, it is an imaginative and well-told tale of how stories come into the world, and what happens if they are not valued and treasured. I highly recommend this children’s book for ages 11 and up, although Rushdie wrote it for his nine-year-old son.
Buy this at your local independent bookstore