Text copyright © 2018 by Sean Taylor and the Khayaal Theatre. Illustrations copyright © 2018 by Shirin Adl. Images reproduced with permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press.

For Elementary Readers

Riding a Donkey Backwards: Wise and Foolish Tales of Mulla Nasruddin

If the stories of this iconic Muslim character don’t make you laugh, they will certainly make you think!


Elementary, Folklore

Apply in the Classroom

Fables, folktales, and other traditional stories are a part of every culture. Sharing stories about where we came from shows all we have in common with other people around us. Nasruddin tales are from many ages and many cultures. Invite students, families, or special guests to share traditional tales from other cultures that are important them. Send a family survey home asking parents about their talents, languages, experiences, and expertise and ask others for help in learning about cultures that are not your own. Most are happy to help if they feel respected. Plan sharing Riding a Donkey Backwards and other traditional tales by delivering the stories in a variety of ways:

  • Reader’s Theater featuring students, staff, and family members
  • storytelling performance by a local storyteller or a community member familiar with the stories
  • a story a day read aloud as part of morning announcements or classroom podcast.

Questions for Discussion or Reflective Writing

How do the stories of Mulla Nasruddin get you thinking?

How would you describe Mulla Nasruddin?

A traditional story is a story passed down through generations. Why do you think people still pass along these stories?

Who tells stories in your family? Is there a story from your family that has been passed down or retold?

Related Teaching Resources

Exploring World Cultures Through Folk Tales from ReadWriteThink

Storytelling in the Classroom

International Storytelling Center

The Smithsonian Folklife and Oral History Interviewing Guide

More Titles to Try

A Ring of Tricksters: Animal Tales from America, the West Indies, and Africa by Virginia Hamilton

Borreguita and the Coyote: A Tale from Ayutla Mexico by Verna Aardema

Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories by Florence Sakade

Kibitzers and Fools: Tales My Zayda Told Me by Simms Taback

Once Upon a Time/Habia una vez: Traditional Latin American Tales/Cuentos tradicionales latinoamericanos by Rueben Martinez

Pushing up the Sky: Seven Native American Plays for Children by Joseph Bruchac