A tale of Rumi, the famous Persian poet, in which interactions between humans and animals result in a memorable moral.
Mah Jahan is a Persian merchant who travels widely and trades in all sorts of things. On one of her trips to India, she brings back a “beautiful bright parrot” to add to her collection of caged birds; it quickly becomes her favorite bird, and she loves it dearly. Before traveling again, Mah Jahan asks her servants and the parrot what they would like her to bring them back as gifts. The servants share what they would like, but the parrot’s request is unusual: It asks Mah Jahan to tell all its old friends in India it misses them and to solicit their advice for it. In seeking to bring the parrot’s requested gift, Mah Jahan does not get what she expected, and the gift eventually results in the bird’s freedom. This old Rumi tale is adapted by making the merchant a woman but is not otherwise significantly modernized. Iranian illustrator Vafaeian’s ornamented, often surreal illustrations depict Mah Jahan in enormous, colorful skirts and frequently surrounded by comparatively tiny servants. The parrot’s cage is likewise stylized, an ornamented circle that contains the unhappy captive. Despite the exuberant color used as highlights, the gray-and-sepia illustrations are often gloomy, befitting its theme.
This 900-year-old story has not lost its classic feel. (Picture book. 6-9)