Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pea Boy and other Stories from Iran

Pea Boy and Other Stories from Iran
Retold by Elizabeth Laird and illustrated by Shirin Adl
Francis Lincoln, 2010. Unpaged. Folktales.

Surely peoples of the world would get along better if we knew each others stories. These Iranian folk stories are filled with both familiar and unfamiliar delights. The title story echoes "The Five Chinese Brothers" as a little chickpea person swallows a river, a jackal, a leopard, and a wolf and lets them out at appropriate moments to save himself and to establish his "parents'" fortune. Some of the stories don't turn out so well for main characters, as when Mr. Mouse does all in his power to serve and save his beloved wife Miss Cockroach, but still falls into the soup and gets boiled up; the beautiful white-haired fairy helps a son find his father, but then is taken away from her friends by the "spirits of eternal life" to preserve her magical cloth. Others fare well, such as the man who promises to produce the Prophet Khizir in order to get money to feed his starving family, and indeed, the Prophet appears on the day he is to be executed for not fulfilling his promise. Touching, funny, adventurous, and strange, these stories convey the spirit of a people better than any number of news stories. Great for children and their grown-ups.

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