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Marjan Vafaeian with The Parrot and the Merchant

We’re so excited to announce that The Parrot and the Merchant has been chosen as one of 30 books in the 2018 Read for Empathy Collection. The selection, chosen by an expert panel, highlights books which have a strong empathy angle, boosting children’s empathy skills. Both Tiny Owl and EmpathyLab believe that children’s stories can be used to build empathy and create a brighter future. With so many messages of hate being shared, we need books which encourage children to love and look after each other. To celebrate The Parrot and the Merchant being chosen we asked the book’s illustrator, Marjan Vafaeian, a few questions:

Why did you decide to illustrate the merchant as a woman?
In old stories, men always had the first role. Women usually had a secondary place in the story. I think it’s time to change this. Today women can do whatever they like.

What does the story mean to you?
Most of all, what I get from the story is that there is a risk, as your social status grows, to become more selfish! You think everything has been created for your own enjoyment. Mah Jahan, the merchant, is taught that this is not right. If you love something, you must set it free. I also like that the Parrot gives up its pampered life for freedom.

What’s the importance of empathy in children’s books today?
In today’s world, lives have become so self-centred that it has become
more difficult to put yourself in another person’s shoes. Those who start a war, or who are cruel to animals can’t understand how much harm and pain they cause. Empathy in children’s books can help children, the next generation, to understand that other people’s lives, nature and animals are as important as their own lives.

Read for Empathy
Read for Empathy Guide 2018

About EmpathyLab
EmpathyLab encourages schools and parents to use this collection of books in the run up to Empathy Day, which is on Tuesday 12th June 2018. To get involved in this project use the #ReadforEmpathy to share your empathy book recommendations or order the Read For Empathy Collection and receive a set of bookmarks and a display poster plus 20% off your order. Read about the other amazing books which were included in the collection by downloading the 2018 Read for Empathy Guide.

EmpathyLab Founder Miranda McKearney OBE says: “It’s time to make far more systematic use of books’ power to tackle society’s empathy deficit. This 2018 Read for Empathy Guide is part of an empathy movement to help us understand each other better. We’re seriously delighted to be working with authors, publishers and Peters to launch it in the run up to Empathy Day on 12 June.”

About The Parrot and the Merchant
The Parrot and the Merchant is a story about a very rich merchant with a beautiful parrot. She loves her parrot and keeps it in a cage so that it will never leave her. But one day she learns to see the world from the parrot’s point of view. This book teaches children to be selfless in their love, and to consider other people’s feelings above their own.

  • Read a fantastic review of The Parrot and the Merchant by Planet Picture Book
  • This book teaches about true love: a review by Tania Khojasteh
  • Watch a lovely video of this book

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