The Girl With a Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran

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Image Credit: Barefoot Books, Rita Jahanforuz/Vali Mintzi

I’m a sucker for traditional “folktale” stories! Reminiscent of Cinderella, Shiraz has her hardships and her rewards and The Girl With a Brave Heart shines due to its interesting and magical story with vibrant illustrations. There’s a soothing quality to the format of a well written folktale and this one is great for reading aloud.

The Girl With a Brave Heart tells the story of kind Shiraz, whose father has passed away and she lives with her stepmother and stepsister, acting as a maid for them. One day her cherished ball of wool blows into her neighbor’s garden so she goes to fetch it. A ragged old lady lets her in in exchange for Shiraz’s labor. She tells Shiraz to do three chores that involve destruction (smash all the things in her kitchen with a hammer, for example), but Shiraz understands what she really needs and helps her. The old lady rewards her with specific instructions for dipping into the two pools in the back on her way home.

When Shiraz arrives home, ball of wool in hand, her family doesn’t recognize her because her beauty is stunning! Eager to find out what happened, her greedy stepmother and stepsister Monir concoct a plan for Monir to get her beauty as well. But the character of a person is their most important aspect and Monir…when she rushes to find her “lost ball of wool”she gets exactly what she deserves for her selfishness.

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Image Credit: Barefoot Books, Rita Jahanforuz/Vali Mintzi

This book is gorgeous. The cover has gold foil on it. 🙂  I first spotted part of the cover image on Barefoot Books’ Twitter page and asked them where it came from because I had to know more about it. Vali Mintzi has amazing style and isn’t afraid to use color. Her gouache paints are bold; she uses strong lines, dabs of color here and there and with just a few strokes, she brings to life the colorful city of Tehran. I love how she gives her characters long noses and shades half their faces with another color. It reminds me of Picasso’s faces.

Though this story does follows the traditional folktale tradition where goodness is equated with beauty, I don’t fault the story for it. Shiraz’s heart is pure and for her kindness, she’s given a gift. Perhaps your family or classroom can discuss folktales and fairytales that break tradition! This is an excellent addition to any collection.

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Friendship, Family, Discussion, Folktale, Helping Others, Inner Beauty, Inner Ugliness, Kindness, Morals, Read-Aloud, Relationships, Selfishness, Tehran
Book Info: The Girl With a Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran by Rita Jahanforuz/Illustrated by Vali Mintzi, 2013 Barefoot Books, ISBN: 9781846869297

 

Latkes, Latkes Good to Eat: A Chanukah Story

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Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, Naomi Howland

 

Happy Chanukah!

I recently discovered this lovely book about Chanukah and latkes. Who doesn’t like latkes?? So delicious.

In this folktale, Sadie lives in a drafty house with her four little brothers and they’re so poor that they always worry about their next meal.  On the first night of Chanukah, as Sadie collects firewood, she meets an old woman and kindly offers the wood to her. For her kindness, the old woman gives her a magical frying pan and tells her the words to use it but she must remember to keep them a secret! When Sadie puts the pan on the stove and whispers the words, a feast of latkes appear in the pan. On the last day of Chanukah, her naughty brothers wait for her to leave the house then try to use the pan. But of course they didn’t hear the words correctly and soon the entire village is overflowing with tender, salty, delicious latkes!!

Howland’s gouache and colored pencil illustrations are folksy and beautiful. The story takes place in Russia and she includes colorful folk art flower borders in the illustrations. The character of Sadie is based on an old photograph of her grandmother and the story itself is inspired by The Magic Porridge Pot by The Brothers Grimm. Howland is also kind enough to include a recipe for latkes at the end of the book and there’s a note about Chanukah/Chanukah traditions for readers who aren’t familiar with the holiday.

Happy Chanukah! I hope you’ll seek out this cute story about family, culture and sharing with community. I’m off to find some latkes…

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Chanukah, We Need Diverse Books, Cultural Diversity, Holidays, Food Culture, Religions, Family, Folktale, Morals, Magic, Kindness, Family, Community, Celebration, Storytelling, Russia, Latkes
Book Info: Latkes, Latkes Good to Eat:  A Chanukah Story by Naomi Howland, 2004 (Reprint) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 9780618492954