The Phoenix of Persia

The Phoenix of Persia
Sally Pomme Clayton and Amin Hassanzadeh Sharif
Tiny Owl

What better way to welcome the month of May than with this wonderful new book and music project from Tiny Owl, The Phoenix of Persia. The tale, told by acclaimed storyteller Sally Pomme Clayton is the second in the publisher’s One Story, Many Voices series.

It’s based on a story from Iran’s most important epic, and one of the world’s greatest, Shahnameh, by 10th century Iranian poet, Ferdowsi and tells of an ancient Persian king.

The setting for the telling is Daneshjoo park where children, including Ali and his sister Shirin, are gathered awaiting the magical ‘Once upon a time …’

We hear of the birth of the multi-hued Simorgh, a firebird with a secret: her feathers have the magical power of granting wishes and making dreams become reality, a bird that is reborn every thousand years from the ashes of her nest. This magnificent creature is the titular Phoenix of Persia.

At that time the land is under the rule of King Sam and Queen Aram who are overjoyed at the birth of a long-awaited child, a son and prince whom they name Zal.

The ruler’s joy is short-lived though for when he uncovers the child’s head he sees, not the locks of a baby but the white hair of an old man. Immediately rejecting what he considers an imperfect infant, the king summons a soldier and orders him to take him to the mountains and leave him. Reluctantly the soldier does as he’s bid, placing Prince Zal on a wind-swept rock.

The sobs of a hungry, distraught babe reverberate over the mountains and are heard by the Simorgh out hunting for food for her chicks. Resolving to care for the tiny human, the creature picks him up, carries him to her nest and tucks him in among feathers.
Years of lessons in languages, the arts,

sciences and princely skills follow and sixteen years later Zal is a wise teenager. His parents meanwhile are suffering – his mother from nightmares, his father from regrets. So terrible does he feel that King Sam calls the soldier and the two men ride off into the mountains, and come upon …

“Can you forgive me?” called King Sam.

Forgiveness follows and a paternal plea to return home initially refused, is accepted thanks to Simorgh’s words of wisdom to Zal that bring about a change of heart.

Then father and son (with some special feathers from the phoenix’s tail) travel home to be welcomed by an overjoyed mother. He adds a fiery phoenix feather for protection to his new crown

and there the storyteller in the arena stops, leaving one of the audience wondering about whether it was ever burned.

With acceptance at its heart, Sally Pomme Clayton’s telling really does feel like a drama unfolding before you, all the more so accompanied by Amin Hassanzadeh Sharif’s wonderful, richly textured, jewel-hued scenes. That’s not all though: there’s a QR code at the beginning of the book you can use to listen to a beautiful musical accompaniment on Iranian instruments to Sally’s narration.

Rich in classroom potential, this book is FAB-U-LOUS!

 

Amazing Myths

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A-Maze-Ing Minotaur
Juliet Rix and Juliet Snape
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
The Greek myth wherein Theseus, the young Prince of Athens, enters the labyrinthine maze where waits the terrible Minotaur for his next young human feast, is retold for young readers and listeners in this beautifully illustrated picture book.
We follow Theseus as he journeys to Crete, meets the task-master King Minos and encounters his beautiful daughter, Ariadne who falls immediately in love with him,

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promising to help him in his quest to kill the monstrous Minotaur. She gives him a ball of golden thread and a small sword, and her word that she’ll wait for him on his return.
Next morning young Theseus, having anchored one end of the thread to the door of the Labyrinth, sets forth into the dark maze, unravelling the thread as he walks.

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On he goes then suddenly encounters the beast towering over him. Out comes the sword and Theseus lashes at his foe, killing the Minotaur but losing his ball of thread. The latter he eventually finds, and retraces his steps. Finally, thanks to Ariadne, he and the thirteen others who were to have accompanied him into the maze, board a ship and sail away to safety in the knowledge that young Athenians need no longer fear the terrible Minotaur.
The ever-popular tale is told in a straightforward direct manner but it is Juliet Snape’s detailed scenes  with their subterranean passageways that, with their resemblance to ancient Minoan art, convey much of the feeling of the story and create the atmosphere. Young audiences will particularly enjoy spotting the monster’s whereabouts as they turn the pages taking Theseus closer and closer to the deadly creature.
This book has been selected for the 2014 Summer Reading Challenge.It may well act as starting point to further exploration of Greek mythology.
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Offering a next step is:

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Greek Myths
Sally Pomme Clayton and Jane Ray
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Subtitled Stories of Sun, Stone and Sea this beautifully produced book contains ten tales, crafted essentially for reading aloud, including a creation myth, Pegasus (The Flying Horse), Orpheus and Eurydice (Journey to the Underworld)

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and Pandora – The Girl of All Gifts. Drama, suspense, sorrow, mortal danger and humour are all present and each tale is powerfully illustrated by Jane Ray. There are full page and smaller paintings each with its own beauty or in the case of Medusa, scarey nightmarish quality.

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In addition to the stories themselves, there is a map of ancient Greece and at the end of each story is a short cultural or archaeological snippet.At the end of the book are an index of Gods and heroes and information on the story sources.

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Find and buy from your local bookshop:http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch