Shahrzad and the Angry King

Enchanted Lion. Jan. 2022. 80p. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781592703524.
Gr 3-5–Kazemi’s version of the legendary tale of Sheherazade starts with a girl who loves stories. In a modern setting, Shahrzad, with fuzzy black cropped hair and caterpillar-like black eyebrows against pale skin, listens for stories everywhere and then recounts them to others. When she hears about an angry king who creates cruel laws, she steps in. Through daily doses of storytelling, each one building on the last, she is able to make the king become kind, with her last story telling him of himself, the grief for his late wife that has made him mean, and his reform. Other than Shahrzad ‘s name, there are few clues for readers unfamiliar with the original, but one of them may send some to the source: “One thousand and one nights passed. Or maybe it was just ten, or a hundred, or a hundred and one.” Thus readers are invited into the secret, that this tale, and all the stories of the Arabian nights, here flattened into a child’s whimsical love of storytelling, have lessons for us all. Although readers are left wondering what was Shahrzad’s dream, and what was real, this sweet book captures the power of storytelling and the fun of creative imagination. Pastel illustrations create a calming sense at times and dynamism in other scenes. The vocabulary, used lyrically, will challenge some in the picture book set.
VERDICT This is a clever tale that uses storytelling to show how people can change, but with its length and advanced word choices may not suit everyone.

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