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The Storyteller of Damascus
Rafik Schami; illustrations by Peter Knorr

published 2019 • 8.5" x 11" • 48 pages • full-color throughout
ISBN 9781623719715 • hardback • $18.95

AN AUTHENTIC TASTE OF THE OLD DAMASCENE TRADITION OF STORYTELLING THAT WOULD INSPIRE CHILDREN’S IMAGINATION

An old storyteller walks through the streets of Damascus and lets the children look into his wonder box, which he carries on his back from one neighborhood to the next. There they see and hear the love story of Sami, the shepherd boy, and the beautiful Leyla. But over time, the story changes… as pictures inside the wonder box become old and start to fade away and are replaced with cutouts from recent advertisements.

A stunningly-illustrated children’s book filled with love, intrigue, courage, loyalty, and the sounds and smells of old Damascus.

Rafik Schami was born in Damascus in 1946, went to Germany in 1971 to study, and stayed on to become a leading German novelist and a pivotal figure in the European migrant literature movement. His novels have been translated into 22 languages and have received numerous international literary awards including the Hermann Hesse Prize. His translated works published by Interlink include Damascus Nights, The Calligrapher’s Secret, A Hand Full of Stars, Sophia, and The Dark Side of Love, which received a starred review in Publishers Weekly and was a 2010 Winner of the Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal.

Peter Knorr is a freelance illustrator and graphic designer living in Nierstein am Rhein, Germany. He illustrated numerous award-winning children's books for various German publishers, including works by authors such as Erich Kästner, Kirsten Boie and Paul Maar. He is also an illustrator for the ZDF children's series “Siebenstein.” His work has been honored by the German Book Art Foundation.


Media Reviews
"A highly humorous book about tradition in changing times, bravery, and love, imported from Germany. In this tale from Syrian-German author Schami, the old storyteller of Damascus used to carry a large, ornate chest on his back, with small holes in it through which children could peek to see scrolled pictures accompanying his stories. In one, he tells of Leyla, the beautiful daughter of a rich farmer, Sami the poor shepherd, and their enduring love in the face of all obstacles put forth by her father against their marriage. Sami manages to fend off robbers with his left hand while rescuing Leyla with his right; he scares lions with his left hand while milking a lioness with his right; and he is challenged to acquire Leyla’s dowry of 300 camels from the herd of the sultan himself! German illustrator Knorr’s jewel-toned illustrations are superbly detailed and sequenced artfully, the tale of Leyla and Sami organized in bordered panels to form an integral part of both plots. The happily-ever-after story of the two lovers always sounds fresh, but as time goes by, some of the images the storyteller uses fade away, and he replaces them with contemporary magazine clippings, playfully affecting the plot. Leyla becomes Colgate, who has “beautiful white teeth,” Sami’s donkey becomes a motorcycle, and he is helped at one point by a clown. The story goes on, becoming “weirder and weirder” as time goes on but still vital and wonderful. A writing, translation, and illustration masterpiece."
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)


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