Never Say a Mean Word AgainIllustrated by Yael Bernhard

Never Say a Mean Word Again

No one ignores the grand vizier. The most important advisor in the royal court, he was considered the wisest man in the kingdom. He was also Samuel’s father. “Make sure Hamza never says a mean word to you again,” he had ordered Samuel. 

What should Samuel do? He couldn’t disobey his father. But how would he make sure that Hamza never insulted him again? Perhaps train a monkey to hold Hamza’s lips closed, or give him some lemon juice to make his mouth pucker?

Inspired by a powerful legend of conflict resolution in Muslim Spain, Never Say a Mean Word Again is the compelling story of a boy who is given permission to punish an enemy. What will he do?

Awards and Honors

2015 Skipping Stones Honor Award

2014 Aesop Prize Accolade #1 from the American Folklore Society

Middle East Book Awards Honorable Mention

Selected by Spirituality & Practice as one of Ten Best Spiritual Children's Books of 2014

Sydney Taylor Honor Award

National Jewish Book Award Finalist

Storytelling World Honor for story-listener appeal


Starred Review: "Jules’s (the Zapato Power series) down-to-earth narrative communicates Samuel’s subtle internal transformation as the unexpected, amusing, and touching outcomes of his attempts to obey his father turn a power struggle into a budding friendship." -- Publishers Weekly, April 21, 2014.

Starred Review: "The illustrations capture the boys, their emotions, the action, and the setting’s time and place in graceful, artistic, evocative style. Colors and designs draw readers into long ago and far away while the plot and dialog salute the timeless human condition. Highly recommended as a strong Jewish addition to a library or home “bully issue shelf” and recommended to ages 5 to 7 as a charming tale." -- Jewish Book World, Winter 2014.

"Rare is the children’s book that, by virtue of its illustrations and story, can be vaulted into the ranks of the classics, those stories such as Where the Wild Things Are that can cross across generational divides and hold up to the discerning tastes of ever-fickle toddlers. Never Say a Mean Word Again has the potential to join these greats. It’s a tale of peace badly needed in the troubled hours known as bedtime." -- Joshua Runyan, Baltimore Jewish Times, June 19, 2014.

"Bright colors depict fancy robes, beautiful architecture, and the swirling curlicues of Islamic art. The afterword explains the tale and gives parents a lot to discuss about modern-day conflict resolution, power imbalances, and the prospect of peace." -- Tablet Magazine, The Best Jewish Children's Books of 2014.

"Never Say a Mean Word Again should be required reading for all youngsters—and adults—as a means to promote civility and cooperation." -- Allison Marks, AJL Reviews, September/October 2014.

“Jules has crafted a folk tale that is sure to please. She writes in a gracious and enjoyable way, with simplicity and humor . . . . This wonderful story is basic enough for young children to follow, and entertaining for adults." -- Beth VanHouten, ForeWord Reviews.

"I love the historical connection to Medieval Spain and appreciated how a powerful message could so smoothly come across in a picture book. . . . Wow, just loved this story and also Jacqueline Jules historical note at the end. Made me want to do more research into this historical time in Medieval Spain. This is a terrific story for classes discussing conflict resolution, arguments, and also cultural differences." -- Styling Librarian, May 6, 2014.

"What could be more universal than name-calling and fighting – between children or adults? What could be harder to teach than effective conflict resolution? Choosing to become friends rather than to become enemies, is tough to do, tough to explain, and tough to teach. This delightful picture book presents in story how peaceful solutions can really happen." -- Nancy Bo Flood, The Pirate Tree, July 24, 2014.

"In Never Say A Mean Word Again: A Tale From Medieval Spain, children learn the importance of friendship while also getting a small taste of life in the Middle Ages. . . . Parents and teachers who are looking for a picture book that showcases how a little kindness can go a long way toward repairing a relationship, should consider reading Never Say A Mean Word Again." -- Sandra Bornstein, July 18, 2014.

"Similar to Enemy Pie by Derek Munson, the story works to share with early elementary age students about friendship." -- Staff Pick, Appleton, Wisconsin, Public Library, August 8, 2014.

"NEVER SAY A MEAN WORD AGAIN: A TALE FROM MEDIEVAL SPAIN (9781937786205, $16.95) tells of the wisest man in the kingdom who orders Samuel to be sure Hamza never says a mean word to his son again. Two boys, one Jewish and one Muslim, work at settling their differences in this compelling tale of a boy given the power to punish his enemy." -- Midwest Book Review, August 2014.

"This story was inspired by the real life actions of the Jewish poet Samuael Ha-Nagid, the vizier in 11th century Muslim Spain. In a world full of conflict, the story of two boys — one Jewish, the other Muslim — feels particularly relevant. How do you punish an enemy? How do you make sure your enemy never says a mean word again? I think the solution that young Samuel came up with would work today as well as it did in the 11th century." -- Mia Wenjen, Pragmatic Mom Blog, August 2014.

"When we received this book from Wisdom Tales, I was hooked.  A children’s story set in Medieval Spain?  Count me in!  But I wasn’t sure my preschooler would be as interested.  Turns out he loves this book.  Despite the exotic setting, the story is told in such a way that any child can easily relate to it.  How do you handle someone who seems determined to be your enemy?  What to do when you are given the chance to take revenge?  The lengths the boy in this tale goes through to put his enemy in his place – and the surprising results – make this a page turner that teaches an important lesson finding a peaceful path through conflicts." -- All Done Monkey Blog, August 18, 2014.

"This delightful picture book shows us how peaceful solutions can really happen. . . . Illustrations are engaging and informative, evocative of medieval Spain. Text is fluid and brief. Arguments and discussions between boys are realistic. . . . Author’s notes give the adult reader ample information to talk about with a young reader." -- ReaderKidz, September 4, 2014.

"Writer Jacqueline Jules has taken this multicultural tale and made it into a touching parable about turning an enemy into a friend. The glorious illustrations of Durga Yael Bernhard give us a sense of medieval Spain. . . . Never Say a Mean Word Again celebrates the art of making an enemy into a friend which in today's world of ethnic violence and hatred is a spiritual way to be encouraged." -- Spirituality & Practice, October 2014.

"'Never Say a Mean Word Again' by Jacqueline Jules, and Durga Yael Bernhard, is a wonderfully crafted story about two little boys, one Jewish and one Muslim, who try to settle their differences. . . . The entire story as well as the ending of this book is completely charming and engaging on many levels. The art is beautiful and deepens the story with its beautiful colors. The print is big and easy to follow and the whole feel of the book is welcoming." -- Jump Into a Book, November 18, 2014.

"At the outset of this review I stated that Never Say A Mean Word Again is a 'sleeper.' A sleeper is an underdog or a long-shot in competitive circles. Sleepers in all arts-related competitions are generally seen as works that slowly but inexorably gain momentum as people begin to take notice of what initially may have been a small scale release. Jules’ riveting and direct prose and Bernhard’s exquisite art have combined to make for one of the year’s can’t miss works, one that is every sense fits the Caldecott criteria. The book deserves some serious attention." -- Wonders in the Dark, January 1, 2015.

"This is a great book for teachers to use in the classroom to discuss peaceful ways to resolve conflict. " -- Children's Books Heal, April 3, 2015.

"We Love This Book. This is a wonderfully told story, universal in nature, surprising in its approach, and touches on so many difficult issues in unusual and engaging ways. It very much deserves the accolades it has received and should find its way into as many little and big hands as possible." -- Reach and Teach.

"The combination of traditional folktale format with surprising plot twists makes this a winning book with unforced relevance in our times. The story itself does not make explicit the boys' religious backgrounds, but subtle differences in their clothing may point to their roots in different communities." -- Friends Journal, May 2015

"The implications of this story can be far reaching and are certainly compelling. I think this would be a very good addition to elementary class libraries, school and public libraries everywhere." -- Chat With Vera, October 4, 2016.

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