Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings

illus. by Shirin Adl. 136p. Frances Lincoln. 2012. Tr $24.99. ISBN 978-1-84780-253-8.
Gr 5–7—These are the sort of tales that delight many children and draw them to literature. Completed by the poet Ferdowski in the early 11th century, and originally composed of 60,000 rhymed couplets, Shahnameh is the national epic of the Persian-speaking world. Its stories tell of the kings and heroes of ancient Iran from its mythical beginnings, when Kayumars, "a man of the mountains" chosen as the first king by the Great God, taught his people how to eat and dress themselves in skins. There are stories of great warriors like Sam and his son, Zal, who was raised by the Simurgh, a giant magical bird; Sam's grandson Rustam and his horse Rakhsh, who were forced to endure seven trials in order to rescue the foolish King Kavus, and the sad story of Rustam's son Sohrab, mortally wounded by his own father, who was ignorant of his identity. The stories are written in brief, descriptive narrative peppered with conversation that makes the principal characters more real and the tales more appealing. Occasional poetic breaks in the text-two to three rhyming couplets-paraphrase or summarize the action or present the thoughts of a major character. Each page is surrounded by a colorful border of vines and fanciful flowers; occasional small pen-and-ink line drawings show action scenes. Eleven brightly colored, pattern-filled single- and double-page paintings in a flat, primitive style are surrounded by quiltlike or illuminated borders, as were manuscripts of the original poem. A brief introduction, lists of contents and characters, and notes about the poet are included.Susan Scheps, formerly at Shaker Heights Public Library, OH

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