‘The Conference of the Birds’
By Alexis York Lumbard (Adapter), Demi (Illustrator), Seyyed Hossein Nasr (Foreword)
'A lavish visual feast'
'It is full of adventure, mystery and best of all, love.'
(Religion News Service)
'Masterfully translated, retold, and illustrated, the story's appeal is both to the naive and to the advanced mind....a beautiful sacred text, retold for the enjoyment and enlightenment of not only children, but everyone.'
(Midwest Book review Reviewers Choice)
Lumbard's debut picture book retells for a young audience the most famous work by the 12th-century Persian poet Farid al-Din Attar about a pilgrimage taken by birds to meet “King Simorgh the Wise.” Sorrowing because they lack kingly guidance, the birds gather together, receive help from the inspired hoopoe, and depart on their quest. Along the way, individual birds confront spiritual obstacles: the parrot's heavy jewelry weighs her down; the finch fears the storm; the hawk, seeking to arrive first, becomes lost. Prose narration alternates with the hoopoe's rhymed speeches of encouragement, which contain a recurring refrain: “So do not let this impatience/ Destroy this golden chance./ Release its hold upon you now,/ And to your King advance!” Set against white full-spread backdrops, red-bordered gilt frames decorated with small birds contain Demi's uncluttered paintings featuring brightly colored, meticulously rendered birds against pale or royal blue watercolor washes. A foreword by scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr provides insight into Sufi poetry and bird symbolism in diverse cultures. Both prose and illustrations combine simplicity and elegance, ably rendering this classic tale for a new generation.
This laudable attempt to retell the gist of a 12th-century poem of over 4,000 verses may be of interest to religious educators and parents who want to expose young people to varied spiritual values.Attar's Mantiq al-Tayr has been discussed throughout the centuries, and children and adults in Iran and other Muslim countries have been exposed to its ideas in many different versions. Here, the foreword by Seyyed Hossein Nasr provides background information on the poem, with its Sufi, Islamic and Zoroastrian elements. In the body of the text, rhyming couplets alternate with prose that summarizes the action cut from the original as the birds take on human personality traits. The hoopoe, resplendent in her red head feathers with black tips undertakes the role of leader and urges the birds to travel together to find their king. Along the way, different birds despair and try to leave the pilgrimage, but they find the strength to continue as the hoopoe helps each one to overcome its particular limitations. The duck is lazy, the parrot has too much finery weighing her down, and the finch is fearful, but all stay faithful to the search, which ultimately leads to great enlightenment. Demi's delicate watercolor-and–mixed-media illustrations, each bordered with a frieze of multiple bird images in every position of flight, suit the text admirably.…
"The Conference of the Birds" is an illuminated retelling of a work titled "Mantiq al-Tayr," by a 12th century Persian poet named Farid al-Din Attar. Beautifully illustrated with fabulous artistic renditions of birds done in a celestial style that draws from Chinese, Japanese, and Persian traditions, "The Conference of the Birds" is a sacred story about the search for enlightenment of the soul, told in effortlessly flowing verse. The fabulously beautiful, enlightened hoopoe addresses his fellow birds, exhorting them to seek to advance to the mystical island home of King Simorgh the wise. Although the story has many obvious Judeo-Christian parallels, it is indeed about the quest for spiritual enlightenment, from the Sufi tradition. Masterfully translated, retold, and illustrated, the story's appeal is both to the naive and to the advanced mind. Children will grasp some of the essential message of hope in overcoming pride, fear, impatience, greed, and sloth in the ever demanding search for the ultimate enlightenment of great King. Each bird has a special obstacle to surpass in their flight. The dazzling and enigmatic ending adds to the mystic and satisfying appeal of the entire story. "The Conference of the Birds" is a beautiful sacred text, retold for the enjoyment and enlightenment of not only children, but everyone.
(Midwest Book Review)
Age Group: 4-8