Although there are many stories omitted in this version, this is an excellent starting place to encounter the ancient heroes...

SHAHNAMEH

THE PERSIAN BOOK OF KINGS

In this adaptation of the Iranian epic, finished in the 11th century by Ferdowsi, the tragic tale of Rustam and Sohrab takes center stage.

The chronology of Persian kings at the beginning is difficult to follow, with many names to master and innumerable battle scenes, but as the great hero Rustam enters the story, events begin to slow down.  His exploits are described in detail. Years later, his son Sohrab, never having met his father, seeks him out on the battlefield. He is deceived by Rustam, who does not realize that Sohrab is his son. Sohrab’s death at the hands of his father, ignorant of the relationship, is emotionally engaging. Laird’s language is hyperbolic, as befits the description of mythological heroes, but it is always accessible, despite the occasional introduction of couplets reminiscent of the original poem. The illustrator uses elements of Persian miniatures in her naïve style, melding painting and collage. Handsomely produced with flowery borders on each page and intense color, the single- and double-page spreads are full of movement. Less successful are the smaller black-and-white vignettes, which are sometimes intertwined with the attractive borders. Lists of characters and museums with collections of Persian miniatures are included.

Although there are many stories omitted in this version, this is an excellent starting place to encounter the ancient heroes of Iran. (introduction) (Folklore. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-84780-253-8

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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The frights are sharp but just momentary disturbances for a cozy, closely knit clan whose traditional way of life seems only...

TWO HAWK DREAMS

A seasonal move down from the mountains proves adventurous for two Shoshone children in this short historical tale set in what will become Yellowstone National Park.

His seventh summer coming to an end, Two Hawk reluctantly stays behind when his father and older brother go to gather in the big net used to trap bighorn sheep, then, with the rest of the family, he prepares for the annual journey to the lowlands. Three incidents make the trip a memorable one: A mountain lion attacks; Two Hawk’s sister Pipit is nearly swept away in a river; and following vague rumors of white men riding “big dogs,” a strange “hairy-face man” with a fire shooting “stick” comes by for a meal—leaving a handful of beautiful beads in thanks and odd marks on a strip of bark: “J. Colter 1807.” Presumably this is John Colter, a historical figure, the first European in the area, though as there is no historical note, readers are deprived of this or, in fact, much other context. Along with references to water spirits, a magpie brings Two Hawk dreams of flight, timely help, and at the end, promises of long life and wisdom. This mystical thread is echoed in nine full-page paintings from Joaquín that depict physical events, the dream and a Coyote tale that Two Hawk’s father tells, all in the same feathery, indistinct style.

The frights are sharp but just momentary disturbances for a cozy, closely knit clan whose traditional way of life seems only distantly threatened by change. (Historical fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8032-6488-5

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2014

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An immersive and thoughtful historical novel that explores West Africa in 1807.

WE ARE AKAN

OUR PEOPLE AND OUR KINGDOM IN THE RAINFOREST — GHANA, 1807 —

A trip to the capital helps three boys from the Asante Kingdom learn more about themselves, their culture, and the wider world in this debut historical novel for middle graders.

In 1807, the Asante Kingdom (roughly corresponding to modern-day Ghana) is the most powerful nation in West Africa. The dominant ethnic group is the Akan, who enslave prisoners of war, called nnonko. Two Akan boys—Kwaku, 11, and Kwame, 12—and Baako, 13, an enslaved Gurunsi boy, live in the town of Tanoso, where Kwame’s father is chief. It’s time to learn adult skills: throwing a spear, trading in the marketplace, figuring out how taxes work, repairing a roof, thinking and speaking with care, and more. In their matrilineal society, Kwaku—the chief’s elder sister’s son—could become chief if he proves his worth, and Baako’s hard work could earn him his freedom through being adopted. As part of their leadership education, the boys are invited to make the eight-day trip to the Asante capital, Kumasi, for an important festival. It’s an exciting crossroads where the boys see many new sights, including horses and the written word. When Kwame and Baako are kidnapped to be sold into slavery, they face a frightening ordeal that confronts them with their complicated world. With her novel, Soper makes the rich Akan culture come alive through the boys’ need for an education, a natural way to present captivating details. The morality of slavery is considered from several angles. For example, what happens to enslaved people who are sold to Whites is a question dismissed as unknowable. But the book is slowed down by much repetition, such as reiterating the fact that ceremonial stools are painted black to indicate the owners’ deaths. Cloutier provides numerous, well-composed monochrome illustrations that give useful context for unfamiliar elements. Helpful resources are included.

An immersive and thoughtful historical novel that explores West Africa in 1807. (glossary, bibliography)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64388-068-6

Page Count: 358

Publisher: Luminare Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

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