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Children's Fiction Country & Ethnic

Nearly Nonsense

Hoja Tales from Turkey

by (author) Rina Singh

illustrated by Farida Zaman

Initial publish date
Mar 2011
Country & Ethnic, Middle East, Humorous Stories
Recommended Age
5 to 8
Recommended Grade
k to 3
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2011
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


Nasrudin Hoja was a mullah (teacher) in Turkey. He was a busy man – he worked in a vineyard, gave sermons at the mosque, and was sometimes even a judge. He did all of this with a nagging wife, a constant stream of uninvited visitors, and many animals. Although Hoja’s life wasn’t easy, his heart was always light and his observations about life held a witty twist. For instance, when his donkey got lost, his neighbors offered sympathy, but Hoja found the bright side: “Imagine if I were riding the donkey at the time. I’d be lost too!”

Though the ten Hoja stories presented by Rina Singh and richly illustrated by Farida Zaman are funny, each one contains such insight into human nature that Sufi teachers use them to illustrate their teachings. Traditional Turkish Hoja stories are much-loved throughout Asia, and Nearly Nonsense brings them to a North American readership sure to enjoy them and, through laughter, to learn from them.

About the authors

Rina Singh has published several critically acclaimed books for children inspired by her Indian Canadian heritage, including Diwali Lights, Holi Colors and Diwali: A Festival of Lights, which was nominated for the Red Cedar Award. Rina’s own grandmother never got the chance to go to school. Grandmother School is dedicated to her memory. Rina lives in Toronto with her family.

Rina Singh's profile page

Farida Zaman is a Toronto-based multidisciplinary artist and writer who is well-known for her whimsical, uplifting designs. She has illustrated fourteen picture books, including When Mom's Away, Ta-Da! and The Yoga Game, and is the author/illustrator of I Want To Be… A Gutsy Girls’ ABC. Born in Bangladesh, and having called many different countries home, Farida describes herself as a global citizen with a flair for illustrating stories related to different cultures, travel, history, and diverse lived experiences. She trained in fine art and illustration at the Chelsea School of Art and the Wimbledon School of Art in London, England, where she graduated top of her class with honors. Her work has been exhibited at shows and galleries and has received recognition and awards in Europe and North America.

Farida Zaman's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“These retellings are unembellished, but their humor and intention are clear. Every school and public library collection should include some Turkish folktales, and this title is a decent way to fill a gap.”
School Library Journal
“… Each yarn is a puzzle to ponder, laugh with and wonder over…. Each story is succinct and funny…. Zaman’s loose, cartoon drawings and clear colours suit the light touch of Hoja’s kind of wisdom….”
The Toronto Star
Nearly Nonsense… is an entertaining collection of Hoja tales from Turkey…. Singh, who was born in India, does us a favour by introducing this character to Canadian audiences. The illustrations by Toronto artist Farida Zaman add considerably to the text with their humour, their colour and their whimsical rendering.”
The Winnipeg Free Press

Librarian Reviews

36 FOLKTALES & LEGENDS BEST BOOKS FOR KIDS & TEENS Nearly Nonsense: Hoja Tales from Turkey

Nasrudin Hoja was a mullah, a Muslim teacher and a man who had as many lessons to learn as he had to teach. No matter what the question, Hoja always had an answer. When he was caught doing foolish things, he would twist the situation around to make himself appear wiser than ever. Although the tales may have changed over time, Hoja has remained a beloved character of Turkish folktales.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. Fall, 2012.

Other titles by Rina Singh

Other titles by Farida Zaman

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