Review of Shahnameh, retold by Elizabeth Laird


The Persian Book of Kings

retold by Elizabeth Laird
illustrated by Shirin Adl

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2012. 135 pages.

I loved fairy tales when I was a child. This book contains stories in the fairy tale style that I’ve never heard before.

This is from the Introduction:

Iran (often known as Persia in the west) is a land of stories. There are so many that they could fill hundreds of books and take years to tell. Some of the best of them are found in the Shahnameh, or “Book of Kings,” a very long poem which was written a thousand years ago by a great Persian poet called Ferdowsi.

People in Iran, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and all over the mountainous lands of Central Asia know the stories of the Shahnameh. They have told and retold them through the centuries, from one generation to the next. Professional storytellers recite Ferdowsi’s verses in tea houses by the roadside. Farmers relate them to each other as they rest in the shade of their fruit trees during the hot months of summer, and mothers and fathers tell them to their children as they huddle indoors round the fire in the cold of winter.

Iranians love to hear about what happened at the beginning of time, how the first kings ruled in glory, how the great age of heroes dawned, how champions like Sam, Zal and Rustam rode out on their fiery horses to fight wicked demons, and how brave women, like Rudabeh and Gordafarid, conquered the heroes’ hearts.

And that’s what you’ll find in this volume, tales of kings and heroes, battles, tricks, and love stories.

I’m not crazy about the art, but the simple flat style suits the subject matter, having a look of primitive art from ancient times, as well as plenty of floral decorations.

This book tells American children about folktales they may not have heard before.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

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