Newest Review: ... of the book, properly entitled “The Tale of the Land Of Green Ginger”, first published in 1937 by Arthur Baker Ltd (London), written and il... more
Abu Ali and the Button-Nosed Tortoise
The Land of Green Ginger - Noel Langley
Member Name: Kukana
The Land of Green Ginger - Noel Langley
Date: 26/09/04, updated on 21/04/05 (402 review reads)
Advantages: Lots of humour, Fun for adults as well as children
Disadvantages: Original version not easily found, Not all politically correct
But did you ever wonder what happened 'after'? If so, then 'The Land of Green Ginger' is the book to read. It starts on the day after Aladdin's son and heir is born. The opening scene describes the Special Meeting of State which has been called in order that a name can be selected for the baby. It's clear right from the start that this isn't a book to be taken seriously; for one thing there are rather a lot of Extra Capital Letters scattered throughout the book, for another we quickly learn that the Grand Vizier forgot about the meeting he had summoned and arrived late after slipping on a mat.
The important ministers are busy sucking their pencils and trying hard to think of appropriate names, peering over each other's shoulders and bickering gently, when Aladdin is summoned by his mother, Widow Twankey. She complains that her new grandson has just called her a Button-Nosed Tortoise. Aladdin doesn't believe her, but to humour her goes to see the baby, and discovers to his amazement that his son can talk fluently, and moreover he did say that his grandmother looked like a button-nosed tortoise.
Very worried about having a day-old child who can talk, Aladdin summons Abdul, the genie of the lamp, for the first time in many years. Abdul tells him that his son (who is to be called Abu Ali) is destined to break a spell when he comes of age. The spell has turned an eminent magician into a button-nosed tortoise, and he can be found in the Land of Green Ginger, a sort of portable back garden which flies around the world landing in different places.
That's chapter one. Or rather, Chapter the First: Which Explains How, Why, When, and Where There Was Ever Any Problem in the First Place. There are thirteen chapters in all, each of them with subtitles in the style of Victorian novels. Actually, the final chapter is not called the Thirteenth, but the Twelve and a Halfth.
Chapter the Second jumps forwards to Abu Ali's coming of age, where after further consultation with the genie Abdul, he sets out on his quest to rescue the magician. He also hopes to win the hand of the beautiful Princess Silver Bud of Samarkand. Lots of humorous adventures follow, as Abu Ali comes up against the delightfully wicked princes Tintac Ping Foo and Rubdub Ben Thud.
It's a children's book of course. According to my notation in the front of the book, I bought this when I was thirteen, and probably read it shortly afterwards. I read it again as a young adult, when I went through all my books and decided which were worth keeping, although it was then boxed away until my sons were about six and eight, when I read it aloud to them. A confident reader of about eight or nine would probably be able to tackle this alone, although it's certainly not in easy-read vocabulary, but I really think it's best as a read-aloud book since there's so much humour and word-play. There are some delightful line drawings every two or three pages by Edward Ardizzone which complement the story beautifully, and which provided much focus for discussion when I read the book aloud.
A few days ago I wanted something light and non-gripping to read while I was making jam, and picked this book out of our shelves. I read it in about a couple of hours, all told - it's a little under 200 pages - and found slightly to my surprise that I enjoyed it as much as ever. There's a delightful irony running through much of the book which was probably lost on me when I was younger; I particuarly like the section describing Abu Ali as a young man. His 'Faults' include being good-natured, honest, considerate and sympathetic... indeed, quite hopeless! Obviously not usual Emperor material. I suppose he could have turned out to be rather a boring hero with all these qualities, but somehow he's very likeable, even before he meets the two contrastingly ultra-wicked princes who are to be his rivals in the hand of the princess.
There are some tense moments towards the end of the book when Abu Ali is imprisoned, and threatened with a horrible death - but it's a fairy-tale, a light-hearted story for children, so of course it's not going to end with the hero meeting an untimely end. Even my normally sensitive son wasn't scared by the visions of pots of boiling oil when I read the book aloud; I think I probably find it slightly more disturbing as an adult, knowing about the horrors that people can and do inflict in each other in real life.
Ideal for boys or girls, children or teenagers - anyone who likes fairy tales and happy endings, and a good dose of humour. While of course it's suitable for children and there's no hint of what we'd call bad language, I suppose some might object to the way the wicked princes keep fighting and calling each other names. One is tall and thin, the other short and extremely fat. Unfortunately we seem to have become over-sensitive to body shapes and sizes in recent years, so if you don't like the idea of your children calling a tall thin person 'bean-pole' or 'clothes-horse', or a short fat person 'pudding' or 'tub', then I suppose you might want to keep them away from this book.
'The Land of Green Ginger' was first published in 1966; my edition is a Puffin paperback published in 1970. Unfortunately, this version does not seem to be in print any more, although it's often found in libraries and can sometimes be found in second-hand bookshops. Amazon sell a somewhat abridged version of the book, published by Faber Classics, for £4.79 after their usual discount; I gather it's fairly well abridged, and retains much of the humour of the original, but that it's rather disappointing to people who remember the full version. Perhaps it was abridged to make it easier to read, or even more politically correct - but if you can get hold of the 1966 version, then that's the one I would recommend.