This laudable attempt to retell the gist of a 12th-century poem of over 4,000 verses may be of interest to religious educators and parents who want to expose young people to varied spiritual values.
Attar’s Mantiq al-Tayr has been discussed throughout the centuries, and children and adults in Iran and other Muslim countries have been exposed to its ideas in many different versions. Here, the foreword by Seyyed Hossein Nasr provides background information on the poem, with its Sufi, Islamic and Zoroastrian elements. In the body of the text, rhyming couplets alternate with prose that summarizes the action cut from the original as the birds take on human personality traits. The hoopoe, resplendent in her red head feathers with black tips undertakes the role of leader and urges the birds to travel together to find their king. Along the way, different birds despair and try to leave the pilgrimage, but they find the strength to continue as the hoopoe helps each one to overcome its particular limitations. The duck is lazy, the parrot has too much finery weighing her down, and the finch is fearful, but all stay faithful to the search, which ultimately leads to great enlightenment. Demi’s delicate watercolor-and–mixed-media illustrations, each bordered with a frieze of multiple bird images in every position of flight, suit the text admirably.
Soaring in some aspects, but limited in appeal. (Religious poetry. 8-12)