Iran is a country of mountains striped with snow, dense forests where bears and lynxes still roam, deserts, bazaars . . . but above all it has stories — of fairies and demons, of a monstrous metal eagle called the okab, of romantic cockroaches and foolish weavers. During her travels in that large and diverse country, award-winning novelist Elizabeth Laird has gathered a wealth of stories, and here she retells, in her own inimitable style, some of its best. This book is an exciting insight into a people with an ...
Iran is a country of mountains striped with snow, dense forests where bears and lynxes still roam, deserts, bazaars . . . but above all it has stories — of fairies and demons, of a monstrous metal eagle called the okab, of romantic cockroaches and foolish weavers. During her travels in that large and diverse country, award-winning novelist Elizabeth Laird has gathered a wealth of stories, and here she retells, in her own inimitable style, some of its best. This book is an exciting insight into a people with an ancient and rich culture, making an important contribution to international understanding as well as being a rewarding book in itself. Beautifully illustrated by a gifted young artist who was brought up in Iran, Pea Boy and Other Stories from Iran is a feast for the eye and the ear.
Laird writes in the introduction "Iran is a country full of stories." This collection of seven stories from Iran will introduce readers to the rich tradition of story from this beautiful country. The stories included are Miss Cockroach and Mr Mouse, The Giant Okab, Kayvan the Brave, The Sparrow's Quest, Pea Boy, The Prophet Khizir, and The Cloth of Eternal Life. The clearly written stories are peppered with culture and charm. The title story is not about a green pea but rather a chickpea that is so prominent in Middle Eastern culture. The stories are not sugarcoated—in one instance a character dies and things are not all "happily ever after" as in older traditional versions of the Brothers Grimm tales. Each illustration brings culture to the story through various bits of watercolor, color pencil, and collage. A sign above a butcher's door uses Arabic writing; the collage of textures helps readers feel that they are at an Iranian wedding or cloth market; and the illustrations of various foods, table settings, musical instruments, or other culturally specific items reminds readers that this culture is unique and delightful. This book is a worthy prelude to learning about this great country and heritage. Reviewer: Joella Peterson
School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—In these folktales, Laird writes as a storyteller would speak, with natural cadence and authentic voice. These tales do not all have happy endings, and sometimes the main characters act very foolishly and suffer the consequences of their poor choices. The message of each story, however, is intelligent and witty, and provides a glimpse into the culture. Although the format and cover illustrations make this look like a picture book, there is a lot of text, making the book better suited to middle graders. The stylized mixed-media illustrations are a good match for the stories. Adl often uses cloth with patterns characteristic of the region in her compositions. The resulting artwork conveys a great deal of fun and exuberance while still reflecting the cultural background of the stories. A well-done and attractive addition to any folktale collection.—Donna Cardon, Provo City Library, UT
The engaging storyteller, who visited Iran both before and after the Islamic Revolution, gives some historical and political background in her introduction, but her focus is rightly on the people and their tales.Overall, the stories have little Islamic content, although "The Prophet Khizir" has a religious tone, and they share motifs with many stories around the world. "The Giant Okab" can be seen as a Beauty and the Beast variant, and "Miss Cockroach and Mr Mouse" is an older version of "Perez and Martina," a Puerto Rican story that first traveled from the Middle East to Spain.Readers who have had broad exposure to folktales will have great fun comparing and contrasting the stories with those of other places; those new to folk literature will just enjoy them. Adl, who grew up in Iran, creates collages with quirky characters, a naïve folk quality and a modern artistic sensibility. General sources of stories from Persia (Iran's prior name) are listed. A wonderful blend of traditional stories and original art that reflects the customs of this country. (Folktales. 7-10)