Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Butter Man

I like stories that teach. The Butter Man, by Elizabeth Alalou and Ali Alalou, is a story like that. It’s a simple tale, not particularly exciting. But through it I learned what life was like a few years ago for the Berbers in Morocco. I also learned some Moroccan words.
At the start, the story is told by Nora, whose father Ali is a native of Morocco. She watches her baba (father) cook a pot of couscous, including meat and vegetables. She’s very hungry, but when she tells him, “I’m starving,” instead of a snack, she gets a story.
The story of The Butter Man.
It’s a story of a time when because of a lengthy drought, there were no crops. Gradually, the amount of bread Ali’s mother gives him to eat gets smaller and drier. And very quickly the butter jar grows empty.
“Ma,” he asks her, “Don’t you have just a little bit of butter for me?”
His wise mother tells him to go outside and wait for the butter man. “If he passes,” she says, “ask for a little bit of butter to go with your bread.”
He goes outside to wait and watch, but the butter man doesn’t come. Still, he manages to eat his small piece of bread without it.
The same scene is repeated day after day: While his daily allotment of bread gets tinier, Ali’s stomach continues to growl, and the butter man doesn’t come.
But someone else eventually comes!
To find out who, you’ll have to read the book. When you do, please write a comment and tell what you learned from this story.

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