Shems and the Magic Seabream
Trigger warning for sensitive kids⭐️
Genre: Advanced picture book
Screening: mentions of evil stepmom who thinks of eating kids, abandonment/neglect, child abuse (emotional abuse), threats of physical abuse, “fat” stepmom eating too much and getting a big tummy, magic, attempt of hurting stepmom by shoving her into the water.
This creative story gave me a mix of Cinderella/Hansel and Gretel vibes but was its whole own type of “fairy” tale on its own. It is based on a Saudi folktale, which I thought was super interesting and unique, as I haven’t read a book like this before.
Shems has a twin sister Shareefa, and the two live happily with their dad. Until their dad marries the evil Mama Ouda. Mama Ouda hates the two kids and tries to get rid of them by popping them in an oven to burn, leaving them in a palm field, and tossing them in a pond. She makes them serve her and sends Shems to get her some fish to eat.
Shems catches a fish but the fish speaks and promises that if it is let go, it would make Shems rich! Mama Ouda is furious and bans Shems from leaving the room, but Shems switches ribbons with her sister and goes to the waterside again. To her surprise she finds a basket of fish and gold. Again and again, Shems brings it home until Mama Ouda gets greedy and follows her. Mama Ouda makes her call the fish, and when she grabs it, Shems pushes her stepmom into the water.
The seabream turns into a mermaid and yells at Mama Ouda, who runs away. And thus, Shems and Shareefa go back to living happily with their dad.
This story was definitely written well, and was interesting. The end is a cliffhanger for the next book and had me and my son wanting more!
This type of folktale is similar to the Brothers Grim, the original dark fairy tales. I would suggest caution with sensitive readers, otherwise, it is a fantasy tale that is funny to read.
Islam isn’t really taught, although hijab is shown worn, and Allah is praised when the fish is caught.
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