Anton Shammas's first children's book is a winding, twisting tall tale with the flavor of Arabian Nights.
The King of Never-Never Land wishes to wed his daughter to the biggest liar in the world. All the lucky man has to do is spin a yarn that is a fabrication from beginning to end. None of the competing liars is able to get much further than "Once upon a time," which is in itself enough to disqualify several would-be bridegrooms.
One young boy (whose two older brothers have already failed the test) starts his fib with "When my father's grandmother gave birth to my grandfather I was five years old." This seems promising. He goes on with his story without a word of truth: he receives an egg from which emerges a giant chicken with a large fig tree growing on its back. The boys throw a stone to dislodge a grapefruit hanging from the tree and the stone turns into a wonderful city on a hill. He climbs to the city and discovers acres of land which he can turn to his advantage by growing sesame seeds. After becoming the largest sesame seed merchant in the kingdom, he suspects everyone of trying to break into his sesame-filled warehouses and counts his seeds again and again. One seed is missing, stolen by an ant! The boy and the ant tug at the seed until it splits in two and out flows a river of sesame oil.
The big liar becomes an oil baron and turns to growing watermelons instead of seeds (they are easier to count). The odyssey goes on, incorporating an old farmer, a donkey and a cannon. In the end, the boy is left with nothing of his wealth but a donkey's tail, however he is an outstanding liar and he wins the bride.
Anton Shammas tells a fanciful tale with such natural ease that he persuades the reader to believe every word.
Illustrations: Dudu Geva