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Summary: A sparrow asks the baker to remove a thorn … when she does, he flies off, only to return to ask for it back. The baker gives him some bread. The sparrow asks a shepherd to watch the bread then flies off. The shepherd eats it and must give the sparrow a sheep. The pattern continues until, at last, the sparrow gets his heart’s desire: to become a minstrel. As in all good fables, selfishness has a way of coming back to get you … and so do thorns! This Armenian folktale shares a universal lesson and introduces a not-often-storied culture for young children.
Type of Reading: playtime reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 2 to 9; read yourself: 9 and Up
Interest Level: 3 to 9
Reading Level: 3.8
Age of Child: Read with a 9-year-old girl.
Young Reader Reaction: Our child initially focused on the drawings and didn't like them. There were times when she would laugh and get excited about what would happen next, and then times she "came back down" because of what happened (e.g., the sheep being slaughtered).
Adult Reader Reaction: Rustic yet simple drawings add ambiance to this Armenian folktale. It is easy to tell where the story is going, and even gets silly (the sparrow flies off with a bride!). I had just concluded that the sparrow “won,” when fate intervened.
Pros: Humor permeates this classically styled fable for young readers. This is a lovely book to introduce young readers to the world around them.
Cons: My concern in reading the book with young children is that the sheep gets slaughtered into shish kabobs at a wedding. Although authentic, it may disturb some children.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow. Like many illustrated fables, after you've read it several times, your young readers will be ready for something new.
Educational Themes: Folktales are universal, timeless, and give you a sense of a particular culture. The Greedy Sparrow references several geographic features in Armenia (Caucasus Mountains, Arax River). Give the story a sense of place by pulling out a map, atlas, or globe.
It could also be fun to compare this story with other fables and folktales with similar themes (e.g., The Fox and the Grapes).
Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.
Literary Categories: Fiction - picture book, animal characters, fables and folklore, life lessons
Date(s) Reviewed: September 2014
Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews at barnesandnoble.com; and reviews and reader feedback at amazon.com.