Shulamith Levey Oppenheim


new work
Michael Hays illustration from Hundredth Name

Hundredth Name

Hundredth Name

Illustrated by Michael Hays
1995, Boyd's Mill Press

I heard the story about the ninety-nine names for Allah during my first visit to Egypt in 1979. It was tossed off by our Egyptologist while walking past a sleeping camel on the edge of fields of hectic green clover. I was already enthralled by the landscape and art of this country....

I was intrigued, because I love folkloric material. Somehow, it was tucked away, far back in my mind, and simmered there. Then I wrote The Hundreth Name. It was first published in Cricket Magazine.

We really don't know EXACTLY where our creative ideas come from. This is, at least to me, the glorious mystery of creativity. The seeds, which we CAN identify often lie dormant for years. Then the rain(an event in our life) comes and the seed burst into bloom.}


With measured prose Oppenheim ( I Love You, Bunny Rabbit ) gives this brief story a reverent tone; a strong sense of place established in the text and pictures makes it vivid. Salah worries at his beloved camel Qadiim's air of sadness until he thinks of a way to help; having heard it said that mankind knows only 99 of God's 100 names, Salah goes out into the night to pray that the last one be revealed--to Qadiim alone. The next morning, the camel's head is high, in its eye a look (so Salah fancies) of wisdom. Hays applies acrylics lightly over gessoed linen; his pale scenes seem lit from within, their slightly indistinct figures standing or kneeling in dignified postures. Author and illustrator expertly evoke the rhythms of rural life along the Nile, but Salah's love and concern for his companion are universal. A moving, original tale.
--Kirkus Reviews

Originally published in Cricket magazine, this quiet tale set "far back in time" in Muslim Egypt conveys the lessons of a foreign culture and its enduring religiosity. Salah is distressed because his camel, Quadiim, seems sad. His father tries to reassure him: "Here on earth we poor mortals must live and die knowing only ninety-nine names for Allah, our God, though there are, in truth, one hundred names, and the last one is the most important. But do we walk about dejected, head down, shuffling our feet? No! We work, we eat, we care for each other." And he concludes, "We pray!" Drawing his own interpretation, Salah fervently bids Allah to let the camel learn the 100th name. The following day, the animal stands proud and tall, a "look of infinite wisdom" on its face. Oppenheim's ( Appleblossom ) lucid, gentle storytelling conjures up the worshipful atmosphere of Salah's home, even if the exact significance of specific points (like Allah's 100 names) may elude the target audience. Hays' ( The Boy Who Loved Morning ) paintings, obviously carefully researched, ably suggest a timeless setting.
-- Publisher's Weekly