How do you teach your children about a foreign culture? Try the delicious dishes, learn a little of the language, sample the local music, take a trip to the country or region when the airfare’s affordable. Those are all fun and wonderful. But don’t forget to read up on their fairy and folk tales, too.
Think about how often we use fairy and folk tales to describe and understand our world. Unlikely sports champions give us Cinderella stories. The geek who turns into an Adonis? Quite the Ugly Duckling. Most parents want their kids to be as strong as Paul Bunyon, as fierce-willed as John Henry, as wise as Solomon.
Folk tales and fairy tales are a great way to introduce our kids, and ourselves, to other cultures–their histories, their values, and maybe most importantly, their magic. And right now is the perfect time to find a bunch of great multicultural fairy tales for kids!
This Monday, January 27th is Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Literature. This wonderful event was created by Mia Wenjen of Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr of Jump Into a Book & Audrey Press, and is sponsored by Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books Chronicle Books, and Susan Daniel Fayad: Author of My Grandfather’s Masbaha.
The Day’s Mission: Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.
I’m thrilled that Mia and Valarie invited me to participate in Multicultural Children’s Book Day, and that Wisdom Tales Press sent me a wonderful book to review. The Knight, the Princess and the Magic Rock: A Classic Persian Tale is an Iranian fairy tale retold by Sara Azizi and illustrated by Alireza Sadeghian.
The Knight, the Princess and the Magic Rock tells the tale of a knight named Bijan, who is sent by the Persian king to drive out a herd of wild boars tearing up the country side. On his way home, he falls in love with a beautiful princess name Manijeh, daughter of the king of Turan, an enemy of Persia. A sleeping potion, a deep dark pit, an immoveable magic rock, an all-seeing golden cup, and the cunning of a warrior named Rostam, mark the tale before the two star-crossed find their happily ever after.
Ms. Azizi tells the tale with clean and clear prose. She uses a nice framing story of a grandfather telling the story to his grandchildren, which impresses on the reader that this is a living Iranian story and one to be told and retold. The story is simple enough that young children can understand it, but told well so that older kids (and parents) will enjoy it, too. Ms. Azizi also includes a postscript explaining the history and meaning of the tale, which gives readers a deeper understanding of the story and its place in Iranian culture.
Mr. Sadeghian’s art is simply stunning. The book’s pictures are inspired by medieval Persian painting (see above, of Bijan fighting those pesky boars), and are beautifully detailed and colorful. Mr. Sadeghian’s art manages a mean feat. His paintings manage to both draw from Iran’s deep artistic heritage while also fitting perfectly into a children’s picture book. They are a feast for young and old eyes both.
So, celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day by checking out this beautifully written and illustrated Persian fairy tale! Also, you enter great book giveaways being held by Barefoot Books and Wisdom Tales Press for MCCBD!
And be sure to check out all the other books being reviewed on January 27th as we celebrate and promote diversity in children’s literature! Blog links ahoy!
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