Joha Makes a Wish: A Middle Eastern Tale

Last updated Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Author: Eric Kimmel
Date of Publication:
ISBN: 076145599X
Grade Level: 2nd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: May 2013

Synopsis: Joha's wishes go awry, thanks to improper use of a magic stick he accidentally finds while walking to Baghdad. Kimmel recasts a Jewish tale from Yemen, borrowing story elements from widespread Middle Eastern folklore featuring the foolish wise man, aka Nasreddin Hodja. Kimmel's introductory note doesn't explain his choice of the lesser-known name "Joha" for the character. Perhaps he's melding the Arabic Juha and the Egyptian Goha for his own spin on the affable trickster. The story here is much more fully developed than the usually small Hodja/Goha episodes. In spite of Joha's angry efforts to rid himself of the troublesome stick, it tightly adheres to his hand, causing much worse trouble when he encounters the sultan in the streets of Baghdad. Kimmel's well-paced text smoothly builds events and dialogue, leaving the character interpretation to the comic portrayals in Rayyan's energetic watercolors. Joha is a small man with large hands and feet and a long, thin expressive face beneath a generous turban. His frayed sandals and patched trousers contrast with the splendor of the robust sultan and his armored guards. Joha's misadventures and the trouble he causes the sultan depart liberally from their folklore and cultural roots but offer an enjoyable escapade demonstrating that universal scheme of the unwitting little guy getting the better of those in power. The wishing scheme and fulsome pictures promise read-aloud fun. From School Library Journal

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Have you ever made a wish? Did it come true?

•  Sultan-a ruler or powerful person
•  Procession- a group moving in an orderly, formal manner
•  Awning- a roof like shelter of canvas or other material extending over a doorway to shield sunlight
•  Vow- to declare or promise
•  Encounter- to meet someone unexpectedly
•  Mutter- to grumble or speak in low tones
•  Seize- to take hold of suddenly
•  Miserable- unhappy, uneasy, or uncomfortable

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What would wish for if you had a wishing stick?
•  Do you know other stories from the middle east?
•  Have you ridden a horse before?
•  Do you know where the middle east is?

Craft ideas:
•  Make a wishing stick with a paper bag by twisting and crinkling it and use colored paper or markers to decorate it.
•  What do you wish for? Draw it!

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!