Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbra Cohen
(this review is especially for Sonlight users, but I’m sure others will benefit from it as well)
I haven’t got a whole lot of good to say about this book, unlike most of the reviewers on Amazon. The only reason I gave it two stars (on Amazon) is that it was interesting and at times funny. In fact, I liked the first of the three sections pretty well. It is defiantly for a younger audience (I’m 17), it was not VERY well written, but tolerable, and certain things worked out a little too nicely to be believed, but what kid was going to catch that? By the time I was done, I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t want any young kid reading this book. There are too many sexual references. First there’s the prince, who has the second section, who says, “I thought I was content with the slave girls I called for whenever the mood struck me.” Granted, the child is not going to pick up on what that means, but need the author have even put that in there? Later, at a feast, he mentions letting his favorite slave girl go to someone else. Again, just enough to make the curious child wonder what he’s talking about. The part that I really object too is in the third part, where the story has returned to the main character, Buran, when she gives a very detailed description of her naked body as she examines it. Plus there was the part where she finds her male cousin working as a prostitute. It is not said in so many words, of course, but quite clearly shown. These where not the only problems I found. The prince’s section is more badly written than the rest. Also, the point of the story is that in order to make money for her family, Buran disguises herself as a man and goes into the trade business. The prince meets her, befriends her, and then ends up suspecting that she is a woman, mainly because of the feelings he’s having. This seemed very unbelievable to me, and a little awkward. He’s basically trying to prove that she’s a woman so that he can fall in love with her. Further more, though I have nothing against stories where woman disguise themselves so they can do men’s jobs, this particular story came across as very feminist to me, though I can not pinpoint exact phrases that made me feel that way. The story is based on a Iraqi folktale; the author has attempted to turn a fairy tale into a full story, and I believe she has failed. On one level, namely the writing, it seems to be for eight year olds, yet on the other, as I have illustrated above, it is for a much older audience. The book itself says on the back cover that it is for ages twelve and up; however, someone of that maturity will be able to pick up on it’s inconsistencies quite easily. My final statement is that though Sonlight picks a lot of really good books, this is one of the picks I can not understand. Surely there are better books about ancient Araby than this!