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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Girl with a Brave Heart (The): A Tale from Tehran
by Rita Jahanforuz
Age Range: 6-8
Shiraz lives happily with her father, step-mother and step-sister Monir in Tehran. Shiraz and Monir are very close but when Shiraz’s father dies everything changes. Shiraz is relegated to being a servant of the family and her days are spent cooking and cleaning, washing and ironing.
Shiraz does not think she is very brave, but when she drops her ball of wool from the balcony into a neighbours garden, she realises she will need courage if she is to retrieve it. Shiraz bravely knocks on the door of her neighbour’s house and is alarmed when a wild old lady with dirty hair, an unwashed face, her dress filthy and her nails long and curved, answers the door. Although Shiraz wants to run away she stays where she is because despite her fear she sees that the old lady has kind eyes. The old lady says she is prepared to give the ball back to Shiraz only if she will do something for her in return. Will Shiraz listen with her head or her heart?
This is a folktale from Persia by Rita Johanforuz, a well-known singer in Israel, who was born in Iran and was inspired by a story her mother told her when she was growing up in Tehran. Shiraz’s goodness shines through as she deals with her unusual neighbour and is justly rewarded while her selfish step-sister gets her comeuppance when she tries to emulate Shiraz’s good fortune.
Originally translated from Hebrew, this lovely tale with a Cinderella-like start gradually becomes more reminiscent of the Grimms’ fairy tale, ‘Mother Holle’ where kindness and goodness are rewarded. The strikingly rich and vibrant watercolour illustrations by Vali Mintzi are influenced by the work of painters Bonnard, Hockney and Matisse which is reflected in the exquisite colour and style that blazes across the pages capturing the cultural setting as well as the real essence of this heart-warming story.