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There is much scope for adopting Harpendore’s new Arabian Nights Adventures books in primary schools

As fans of the classic Arabian Nights tales know, these stories take place in a sweeping variety of settings – from North Africa to Turkey, Baghdad to Cairo, Greece to Damascus, India, Basra, China and Persia. They reflect the huge range of cultures and civilisations – as schools up and down the country increasingly do – that have contributed to the collection over thousands of years. Today the Arabian Nights are part of the world’s cultural heritage and illustrate the powerful connections that have always existed between East and West. For the Key Stage 2 (or early Key Stage 3) teacher of English, history, geography, citizenship, RE, art and drama who wishes to include a multi-cultural dimension into their lesson plans, these stories provide an exciting wealth of material waiting to be explored.

The Arabian Nights tales are famed for using the device of ‘stories within stories’. Because the Harpendore editions remain unabridged and retain this rich structure, they introduce young readers, in a compelling yet unconscious way, to the use of such narrative devices in creative writing and story-telling. The titles that particularly exemplify this approach are The Merchant and the Jinni, The Tale of Zubaidah and the Three Qalandars, The Adventures of Harun al-Rashid, Caliph of Baghdad, The Fisherman and the Jinni and The King’s Jester (better known as The Little Hunchback).

The Arabian Nights tales describe a world of enchantment. Magic is commonplace, humans change form, genies exist and wicked sorcerers abound. This is the stuff of great stories. Research by Amira El-Zein published by Syracuse University Press has argued that beliefs regarding the jinn – a concept that translates into ‘genies’ or even ‘fairies’ in Western literature – are in fact deeply integrated in Muslim culture and have a constant presence in legends, myths, poetry and literature. In Harpendore’s Arabian Nights Adventures we largely retain the term jinn in preference to genies or fairies – with jinni being the singular form. The stories provide ideal material for primary and early secondary school teachers to use when exploring legends, myths, literature and beliefs across a variety of different cultures and time periods.

Arabian Nights Adventures is an ideal collection of chapter books for Key Stage 2 readers who have outgrown their reading scheme books and are ready for new adventures. There is a nice balance of shorter stories and longer epics which caters to readers at different stages. Furthermore the series promises to be very enticing for the more reluctant reader – the design is fresh and modern, the language warm and accessible, the typesetting clear, and there are lots of cheeky illustrations inside.