The Butter Man

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This book is titled The Butter Man by Elizabeth and Ali Alalou, illustrated by Julie Klear Essakalli. I discovered this book when preparing to teach a lesson about different aspects of African countries and culture. The book begins with a little girl named Nora in America being told a story by her father (Ali) about his youth in Morocco. The story describes how when he was little his family was very poor and did not have much to eat due to drought. They had a cow and were able to make butter to make their plain hard bread delicious, however, when his father left to make money for his family he took the cow with him and Ali no longer had butter. Ali then waited outside down by the road that ran near his home and waited for the butter man, a man that would travel through town selling his butter. Ali waited day after day in hopeful anticipation, but the butter man never showed. Each day he waited, his serving of bread grew smaller and smaller as he grew hungrier and hungrier. One day when waiting for the butter man, he saw his father in the distance arriving with an abundance of food! The family had a celebration of love and food and as the town was graced with rain and crops, the family had full stomachs once again and were even able to buy another cow who produced butter. The story then reverts to Ali and his daughter Nora in the kitchen eating traditional Moroccan couscous and rejoicing in their ability to share the time together and also never have to worry about hunger.

I love this book for many reasons. The story contained a moral of rewards for patience and the keeping of hope. Additionally, the story offered a window into a culture that many American students are not familiar with. This culture was introduced with descriptions of customs, traditional foods, and images that showed the land and people. Also, the book contained several words in a Moroccan language of the Berber people. I thought this was very interesting because the book did not define these words within the text, rather the reader had to use context clues to determine the meaning of the words or refer to the glossary at the back of the book. All of these descriptions and aspects of the culture would be wonderful ways to spark conversations in classrooms and discuss different ways of life. Additionally, the book revolved around the character Ali who was speaking to his daughter Nora who both now lived in the US. In this way, the book can also be used to discuss immigrants, the infusions of multiple cultures, and the value of stories to share culture and life experiences to those who may not fully understand them.

Carly Hess

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