Elizabeth Varadan | The Children’s Book Review | March 31, 2014
The Girl with a Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran
Written by Rita Jahanforuz, Illustrated by Vali Mintzi
Age Range: 4-10
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Barefoot Books Ltd (March 1, 2013)
What to Expect: Mystery, A plucky Iranian heroine, Bravery of spirit, Tempered by kindliness.
Set in Tehran, Iran, this quite original tale is a reminder that story themes are universal. At times it has the feel of Cinderella with a cultural twist. Other times, it is reminiscent of Charles Perrault’s tale of the kindly sister and the bad-tempered sister, whose deeds have different outcomes.
Shiraz’s father has remarried after his wife’s death. His new wife has a daughter, Monir, and the two are raised as sisters until Shiraz’s father dies. Since the family finances are reduced, Shiraz becomes the maid, run ragged with household chores. In a rare moment of rest, while knitting on the roof balcony, her ball of wool, a legacy of her mother’s, is blown into a neighbor’s courtyard.
Shiraz goes to the house to ask for her wool. The strange old woman who lives there will only let Shiraz have the wool if she does three very strange tasks: Smash everything in the house, cut down all the bushes and flowers in the garden, cut the woman’s hair. Instead, Shiraz does what she thinks is best in all three cases. The woman directs her to bathe in two pools in the courtyard, and Shiraz returns home, transformed into a beauty. The stepmother immediately sends Monir to be transformed. Bad-tempered Monir does the three tasks her way, with different results.
“She knocked again. After a long time, a small window in the top of the door opened just a slit and a pair of eyes stared down at her.”
But this luminous story goes beyond the familiar moral attached to good deeds and bad deeds. When Shiraz explains why she acted as she did, despite the woman’s three requests, a deeper, more beautiful lesson for life is tapped. And readers will just have to read the book to find out what that is. Vali Mintzi’s illustrations, a visual treat, capture the characters and setting.
This book will appeal to readers ages 4 to 10, who like stories of other cultures, fairytales with a twist, and endings that make one reflect.
Add this book to your collection: The Girl with a Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran, written by Rita Jahanforuz, Illustrated by Vali Mintzi
About the Reviewer
The Girl with the Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran, by Rita Jahanforuz and illustrated by Vali Mintzi, was reviewed by Elizabeth Varadan.