I first heard of The Conference of the Birds when I studied the major religions of the world many years ago. It was originally a 12th century Persian book of poems written by Farid ud-Din Attar comprised of approximately 4500 lines. The story is beautifully retold (and, thankfully, condensed) by Alexis York Lumbard and expertly illustrated the artist Demi. I really liked the way that Ms. Lumbard kept the poetic feel and rhythm of the the original text. I have read other translations of the epic poem and I did not enjoy them nearly as much as I did this interpretation.
The story centers around a bird called a Hoopoe (a real Eurasian bird found in many desert climates--as a matter of fact, it has been the National bird of Israel since 2008) who inspires all of the birds of the world to join her in a quest to find the king of birds, Simorgh the Wise (a Simorgh is an ancient, mythical bird similar the the western world's Phoenix.) Along the way the birds struggle with all-too-human personality flaws which jeopardize their journey. At each step the wise Hoopoe encourages them to overcome their frailties and then continue with their mission. The ending is both poetic and spiritual in a way that people of varied religions (or none at all) should find compatible with their own beliefs.
The book itself is of family heirloom quality, expertly printed with a gold gilt-like color on every page. The artwork, by Demi, is exquisite. The very realistic (if very slightly stylized) depiction of the birds reminds me of Japanese woodblock prints or ancient Persian paintings. And the birds! What a collection we have here. Children will really be captivated by the sheer variety of avian species depicted here. They include many Eurasian birds such as swans, owls, cranes, ibis', hawks, jungle fowls, ducks, vultures, sparrows, quails, woodpeckers, peacocks, pheasants, kingfishers and many, many more. However, the reader may also identify many new world birds, like hummingbirds, quetzals, toucans, cardinals, parakeets and many different types of parrots including a starring role by a gorgeous Scarlet Macaw (surprisingly, there is even a Dodo on the cover page.)
My copy of this book is headed to my two granddaughters, ages 3 and 6. I really think that when they see it they will be reminded of their 'Pop-pop's' love of birds as well as his love for them. I also think that their mother will appreciate the morals included in this classic tale. Well done!
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the author for reviewing purposes and in exchange for an honest review.