A magical book takes readers to another world.

THE PHOENIX OF PERSIA

From the One Story, Many Voices series

A story of ancient Persia inside a story of 20th-century Iran accompanied by an easily accessible soundtrack.

A brother and sister in Iran run to the public park to listen to a storyteller backed by musicians narrate the tale of Prince Zal and the Simorgh, an ancient wise bird with the powers to make dreams come true. Zal is born to a Persian king and queen who have long awaited a child. However, when the king sees that the child’s hair is white as snow, he banishes the babe. The Simorgh finds the crying baby abandoned in the forest and raises him with her chicks, teaching him poetry, science, the history of the universe, and all else a prince needs to know. The king finds Zal after 16 years of regret and offers him the throne, but Zal prefers to stay with the mother who raised him. The Simorgh saves the day with her wisdom, the storyteller and musicians pack their gear, and the little children can’t wait to hear the remainder of the story the next day. This beautiful, traditional tale is illustrated with a touch of magic by Sharif, who uses jewel-toned colors applied with a scratchboard effect that seems to pick out every feather on the Simorgh’s body. A QR code provides access to the soundtrack, in which each character is “voiced” by a different traditional Iranian instrument (explained in the backmatter).

A magical book takes readers to another world. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-910328-43-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiny Owl

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

HOME

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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