Our history studies recently took us to Persia. This year I’ve been doing more assigning of books to John that go with what we are studying in history. Sometimes these go into more depth (like when we studied Jamestown); sometimes they are a longer chapter book that explores a different culture (ninjas). This time I found a few picture books that told Persian tales and that served to add a little more flavor to our studies.
King Abbas sits down to eat his dinner one night but the fish hops around the plate and he can’t eat. His royal counselor tells him that it is a sign that the poor people in his kingdom are too hungry and that he won’t be able to eat until they do. The king disguises himself as a poor man and sneaks out into the kingdom. He meets three men who quickly tell him their plan to rob the king using their special powers. The king goes with them and is shocked to see them succeed. But in the end he shows them mercy and convinces them to use their powers to help the people of the kingdom.
The front endpaper has a note that there was a real King Abbas of Persia in the late 1500’s and early 1600’s who was beloved by the people so they told stories about him. This is one of the traditional stories passed down about him.
This story is based on a poem by Rumi, a 13th century Muslim Persian poet. A wealthy Persian merchant has a beautiful Indian parrot that he keeps in a cage in his shop. The parrot sings so beautifully and is so lovely it attracts customers, makes him rich and he refuses to let it go. One day the merchant tells the bird he is going back to India and asks if he wants anything. The bird asks him only to deliver a message to the other birds in the forest, which he reluctantly does. The birds send a secret message back to his bird that ends with the merchant’s bird gaining his freedom.
This book by Lauren Thompson was John’s favorite of the three, although he liked them all. A beautiful Persian princess, Aziza, loves numbers and riddles so when it is time for her to get married she devises a clever riddle to see who is worthy to be her husband. The clue to the riddle is woven through the book and it’s just tough enough that kids will find it clever but not tough enough that they won’t understand it when they hear the answer.
One thing I appreciated about all three of these books was the illustrations. Each one is illustrated in a very different way but each is beautifully done and somehow “feels” Middle Eastern.
Be sure to check out Hope is the Word to see more of what kids and parents are reading.