Title: The Contest
Author: Nonny Hogrogian
Publication Date: 1976
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Number of Pages: 30
Awards: Caldecott Honor
Genre/Subgenre: Picture book/Folk tale
When two thieves become rivals for the same woman, they set out to prove which one deserves her.
The Contest is the story of two thieves, Hmayag and Hrahad, who are both engaged to marry Ehleezah. Both decide to travel away from their village to improve their financial prospects, and they run into each other on the journey and realize that they are both engaged to the same woman. They decide to have a contest; whoever is the better thief gets to marry Ehleezah. They begin by stealing a bag of jewels – one of them takes the jewels and replaces them with stones and the other reverses the process. Then one of the thieves sneaks into the Ishkhan’s palace and steals his chickens. The other sneaks into his bedroom and talks to him when he thinks he is dreaming. The thief asks the Ishkhan which of the thieves is more clever, and the Ishkhan answers that they are both clever but the one who stole the chickens is more clever. The next day, Hmayag and Hrahad decide neither of them will marry Ehleezah and decide to stay where they are. Meanwhile, Ehleezah has found a new man to marry – this time a musician.
The Contest is a beautifully illustrated, fun folk tale. I enjoyed the rivalry between the two thieves and the ways that they sought to prove themselves, and I think young readers will too. The Contest was also a great look into a fascinating culture that many young readers might not be familiar with.
Why I Chose the Book:
I enjoy folktales, and I was interested to read one from Armenian culture because I grew up in a town with a large Armenian population and cultural influence.
The Tiger of Turkestan by Nonny Hogrogian
The Golden Bracelet by David Kherdian
The Glass Mountain by Nonny Hogrogian
Book Talk Ideas
Have an Armenian culture lesson before reading this book. Talk about where Armenia is and its culture. Serve an Armenian snack or play Armenian music.
1. Were you surprised by the ending? Did you think that either of the thieves would go back to Ehleezah?
2. Who do you think is the cleverest of the two thieves? Why are they more clever?
3. What about the story told you that it was a folk tale? Can you think of any other folk tales that reminded you of The Contest?
Goodreads (2014). The Contest by Nonny Hogrogian. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1519624.The_Contest?from_search=true
Hogrogian, N. (1976). The Contest. New York: Greenwillow Books.