The Jackal Who Thought He Was a Peacock – A tale by Rumi

by | Mar 1, 2020 | Book Review, Fiction, Illustrated book

Book Details

The Jackal Who Thought He Was a Peacock – A tale by Rumi
Fereshteh Sarlak, illus. Firoozeh Golmohammadi, transl. Azita Rassi. London: Tiny Owl, hb, 9 78 19103 2813 2, 2016, £12.99, 112pp.
Picture book, 6-8 years

Tiny Owl has quickly acquired the reputation for beautifully produced picture books with distinctive content. They open the eyes to another culture, while emphasising the universal. A number of their titles look to Iranian stories for their inspiration. 

This title is no exception and will introduce children to a fable of the great Iranian poet, Rumi. Here the retelling by Fereshteh Sarlak expands the narrative allowing the message to become clearer for a young audience. So we have a story about the futility of wishing to be something other than you are. This is a theme that has universal appeal and will be familiar.

However, the illustrations by Firoozh Golmohammadi introduce a very different visual experience; exotic, otherworldly – different. The palette is dark, colour saturated, the brilliance of the peacock feathers shining out. No wonder the jackal is so entranced. But just to ensure that we do not think this tale belongs to the past or to an unreal world inhabited by animals, the jackal, sporting a magnificent striped scarf, rides a bicycle of regal dimensions. It is this playfulness that offsets the sombre dreamlike background. It also enhances the text. This has been translated with great clarity by Azita Rassi bringing it into the 20th century.

Though children in the UK have a wealth of picture books to enjoy, a quick survey of the kinderboxes in libraries or the shelves in the book shops suggests a certain uniformity of style; blandness even. Picture books such as this title are a welcome antidote, creating a sense of danger, of new possibilities, a challenge. Definitely one that should be in every school.

Review by FMH