The Parrot and the Merchant: A Tale by Rumi

Tiny Owl. May 2019. 24p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781910328033.
Gr 3 Up–Based on a short tale from Masnavi, a collection of stories written by the 13th-century poet Rumi, this fablelike lesson teaches that true happiness can sometimes be achieved by doing something that will bring joy and love to another being. Mah Jahan travels to places “far and wide, buying and selling beautiful things.” For herself, she collects beautiful birds that she keeps caged or chained so they cannot fly away. As she prepares for a business trip to India, she asks her many servants and her favorite talking parrot what gifts she can bring them. While the servants ask for tangible gifts, the bird requests only some advice from its Indian friends that might help to cure the sadness that comes from missing them. Vafaeian has illustrated the tale in a folk art style with joyful quiltlike patterns in somewhat subdued blues, greens, reds, and browns on clothing and birds set against crisp white pages. The servants, both humans and camels, painted in shades of pale tan and gray, appear flat, ghostly, and grim. Mah Jahan is, oddly, one-eyed until she begins to understand that freedom can bring happiness.
VERDICT Rumi’s story, briefly and beautifully presented, carries a profound lesson that invites discussion.

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