Lindsay Shaw, the Children’s Librarian at The Providence Athenaeum shares her love and knowledge of books with Kidoinfo. You do not have to be a member of the Athenaeum to visit, although once you see their collection you may want to join. And when you stop by the Children’s room, say hello to Lindsay.
Too young for Harry Potter? Too old for…? Well, in my line of work (children’s librarian), no one is too old for any book. Let’s just say the book I’ve chosen to review here has enjoyed a fan base of young and old and older for many years, and though not nearly as famous as L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, it is in the same league.
The book is Tal: His Marvelous Adventures with Noom-Zor-Noom by Paul Fenimore Cooper, illustrated in bold black and white by Ruth Reeves. Originally published in 1929, Tal is a treasure waiting to be rediscovered.
First we meet Tal, an orphan boy who appeared in a small sea side village called Martoona, when he was just past a year old. The villagers have been raising him collectively for about eight years and all admire his bright and thoughtful manner. Here we also meet Noom-Zor–Noom, a story-teller who has traveled the world with his assistant Millitinkle, a snow white donkey (so named for the bells at the tips of her ears), collecting stories.
I should add at this point that Ms. Millitinkle can talk and is ever ready with a dry comment. Like her male counterpart Eeyore, from Winnie the Pooh, she is not bubbly or silly, which adds a gentle sophistication to the story that won’t be lost on young readers.
We learn that the infant son of the king of Troom has been carried away by a djinn (genie). After consulting the head on his magic Golden Door, the king learns that the prince will be returned safely, only if a story can be told that will please the head on the golden door and delight a child. Once a year, five story-tellers are called upon to each tell a story to the door, and for nine years the story-tellers have failed to open the golden door. All have been imprisoned at the hand of the grieving king. Now it is Noom- Zor-Noom’s turn to face the door and possibly his doom.
In his travels, collecting stories for the king, Noom-Zor-Noom has heard of a much admired orphan named Tal. Because of Tal’s reputation for being an exceptional boy, both kind and intelligent, it is Noom-Zor-Noom’s wish to take Tal with him to Troom, telling him stories along the way. Who better than this wonderful boy to select the story that may open the golden door and save Noom–Zor-Noom from the fate of his fellow story-tellers.
As their journey unfolds, they encounter odd and often delightful situations. All along the way the reader, like Tal, is treated to the many tales that Noom-Zor-Noom has collected and written on a black crystal block that Millitinkle carries on her back.
In a fresh matter-of-fact style, Mr. Cooper weaves the magic of Tal’s and Noom-Zor-Noom’s journey with the enchanting tales that the story-teller shares with Tal. This book presents a wondrous story, with language that is simple and inviting. The brilliant art-deco-inspired black-and-white illustrations by textile designer and painter Ruth Reeves match the text to perfection. The 2001 edition includes an interesting introduction by Henry S. F. Cooper Jr., nephew of the author.
I was ten when I met Tal, and my daughter was eight or nine. When I found that it had come back into print, I bought us each a new copy and one for the library as well. With our new copy of an old favorite, I enjoyed several Fridays one winter, sharing Tal’s adventures with a group of six-year-olds who faithfully visited the library each week for the next installment.
As a family read-aloud or a first fantasy chapter book for independent readers, I know this will be a welcome addition to your home library.
Tal, His marvelous adventures with Noom-Zor-Noom
Published by Purple House Press
Available through Amazon.com