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Buy The Parrot and the Merchant

The Parrot and the Merchant is a rich and intricate story

The Parrot and the Merchant has been featured in The Wall Street Journal! Thank you to Meghan Cox Gurdon for the amazing review!

A different sort of prisoner features in “The Parrot and the Merchant” (Tiny Owl, 24 pages, $16.99), a picture-book adaptation of a fable by the 13th-century mystic Rumi, written and illustrated here with weird, interesting artwork by Marjan Vafaeian (see below).

Translated by Azita Rassi and, in a nod to the demands of the moment, given a female protagonist, the text has ideal phrasing for reading aloud: “Long ago in Persia there lived a merchant named Mah Jahan. Mah Jahan went far and wide, buying and selling beautiful things. The beautiful things that Mah Jahan collected for herself on her journeys were beautiful birds. She kept them in cages or chains so that they couldn’t fly away and leave her.”

In the pictures, the intricately ornamented birds appear suspended inside small, parchment-colored blobs floating inside a larger floral blob. Mah Jahan herself has gigantic skirts beneath a tiny torso and a head that often, disconcertingly, seems one-eyed. The rich colors and distorted proportions of the figures both attract and disturb the eye as, in this story for 3- to 7-year-olds, the merchant travels to India to trade goods and ask the advice of wild parrots as a favor to one of her caged birds at home.

  • The importance of introducing diversity to children. Link
  • Listen to this fantastic report of BBC Radio 4 about Rumi. Link
  • Meeting the illustrator in Tehran. A blog post. Link

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Posted in News & Reviews