Brave with Beauty: A ­Story of Afghanistan

Yali. Oct. 2019. 46p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781949528978.
Gr 2-4–“Seven centuries ago, when the great caravans journeyed to the edges of the world, there lived a girl who loved all things of beauty. Her name was Goharshad.” So begins this fictionalized life story of a remarkable queen of a vast realm seldom described for today’s children. As a girl, she loves to paint and proclaims to her war-playing brothers that she “will be brave with beauty.” Goharshad is married at age 14 to King Shah Rukh and the tale goes on to sketch her artistic achievements. “First, Goharshad imagines filling the kingdom with music.” Her summoning of musicians leads to visions and creation of a great beautiful garden. Then begin long years of work with court architect Qavam-al Din Shirazi on grand buildings—”a college for girls, a grand mosque for prayer, and a vast library brimming with books of science, religion, literature, and art.” This small, text-heavy volume includes multiple softly colored scenes that aptly convey the opulent dress and decor of the time. Goharshad’s aging and death are not the end of her story. Weather and war bring ruin to the marvelous building in the ensuing centuries, and Shur poses an elderly caretaker now digging up bright bits of “a place bold with ideas and brave with beauty.” Shur’s author’s note identifies the featured capital city of Herat as now located in Afghanistan. Actual dates, a map of the enormous kingdom, or indications of the author’s sources are not provided, but there’s a glossary of the real names used in the story.
VERDICT A pleasant, romantized introduction to an impressive person, places, and time for young readers beginning to like stories about real people.

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