A girl who is beautiful within becomes beautiful without, but her mean stepsister cannot follow her path.
An Iranian-born author uses a “Toads and Diamonds” base for her original tale. Shiraz, Cinderella-like when her father dies after marrying a woman with a daughter, goes to find a red ball of yarn (left by her own mother) when it blows into a strange neighbor’s garden. She meets an old woman, who, curiously, asks Shiraz to further destroy the neglected house and garden, and then to cut her tangled hair short, but the compassionate girl disobeys and makes everything perfect. The old lady gives her the wool and directs her to bathe in two pools. When Shiraz returns, her stepfamily is amazed by her beauty. The stepmother insists that Monir visit the woman, but the stepsister cannot muster Shiraz’s goodness. She follows the instructions literally and destroys everything. After greedily immersing herself in the pools more times than directed, she comes home bedraggled and ugly. Mother and daughter demand to understand this very different result, and Shiraz reveals her secret. The gouache paintings with their bold color blocks and scribbly lines provide a picture of a timeless Tehran and a girl who is a whirlwind of energy.
Despite a little too much emphasis on its moral, a satisfying story of just rewards for just actions. (Picture book. 6-9)