The Conference of the Birds by Peter Sis

The Conference of the Birds by Peter Sis, an acclaimed children’s author and illustrator, has taken his skills to a 12th century Sufi epic poem of the same name written by Farid ud-Din Attar, who was not only a poet but a mystic.  Often these types of poems have a hidden spiritual meaning, and Sis deftly captures the essence of Attar’s poem with illustration.

In this illustrated version of the epic poem, the pictures speak for the poet, Attar who wakes from a dream to realize he’s a hoopoe bird.  Once he transforms, he calls all of the birds of the world together to find their true king, Simorgh, by flying through the seven valleys — The Valley Of Quest, The Valley Of Love, The Valley Of Understanding, The Valley Of Detachment, The Valley Of Unity, The Valley Of Amazement, and The Valley Of Death — to reach Mountain Kaf.

In the beginning, the transformation of Attar is shown much like animated cartoons would have been created, with the flipping of each panel where each image has slight differences to create the illusion of movement.  Once the birds agree to take the journey, it is clear that it will take them through a number of valleys that will test their resolve, with each bird’s skills and weaknesses hammered by adversity and uncertainty.  Sis creates vivid birds of various colors and species.  Even if the pages of this book were not textured, readers could see the feathers and layers on these birds.

And there are many layers to these birds, their feathers, and their story.  The poem sheds light on the inner spiritual journey each of us travels, the trials that we face, and the perseverance it takes to stay on course and believe in ourselves.  For some the journey is too hard, and they turn back, but for others, it is important enough to move onward despite the risks and sorrow.  Like the poem, The Conference of the Birds by Peter Sis is multilayered, with great attention to detail from the feathers on the birds, the birds making up the larger birds, and the trees that create the mountains.  A gem of a book from an illustrator and writer who sees beyond just the words to the world it creates and the messages it brings.  Likely to be on the best of list for the year.

As an aside, I read this a couple of times carefully and with my infant daughter. She loved feeling the pages and looking at the vivid imagery, and I can tell you that keeping her attention for an entire book is difficult. This is great for kids and adults. Sis has created something of lasting beauty.

About the Author:

Born in Brno, in the former Czechoslovakia, in 1949, Peter Sís is an internationally acclaimed illustrator, author, and filmmaker. Most recently, in 2007, he published The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, which was awarded the Robert F. Sibert Medal and was also named a Caldecott Honor Book. Peter Sís was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2003. He is the author of twenty children’s books and a seven-time winner of the The New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year.  Please check out his Web page.

Please check out this video interview from BEA:

According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Sis pays homage to traditional Islamic art and its figurative representations and geometric patterns as the valleys are depicted as a series of mazes.  (Seriously, read that review, it is stunning).


If you’d like to check out the rest of the tour, please click on the TLC Book Tour icon at the right.



This is my 29th book for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.


This is my 66th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

I’m Hosting Mailbox Monday #148

First, I would like to congratulate (Bibliophile by the Sea) on winning Where Am I Going by Michelle Cromer from the last Mailbox Monday giveaway.

Stay tuned for the next giveaway later on in the post, but for now, let’s get to this week’s post.

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. Thanks to Amused by Booksfor hosting last month.

As host for this month, I have a couple giveaways planned, but mostly its about sharing books and the love of reading, so I hope in addition to leaving your post links in Mr. Linky that you’ll peek around Savvy Verse & Wit.

Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.

Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1.  The Time in Between by Maria Duenas for review (my second copy, look for a giveaway with the review)

2.   Twilight The Graphic Novel Volume 2 by Stephenie Meyer and adapted by Young Kim

3.  The Giver by Lois Lowry from the library sale for my daughter and myself

4.  The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis from the library sale for my daughter

5.  Who Am I? by Sesame Street from the library sale for my daughter

6.  Silly Sally by Audrey Wood for my daughter from the library sale

7. The Conference of the Birds by Peter Sis for review for TLC Book Tours in early November.

8. The Strangers on Montagu Street by Karen White for review in November.

9. Three Women: A Poetic Triptych and Selected Poems by Emma Eden Ramos for review.

10. Beyond the Scent of Sorrow by Sweta Srivastava Vikram for review.

11. Soul Clothes by Regina D. Jemison for review.

12. A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead for a TLC Book Tour at the end of November.

What books did you receive this week?  Please leave your link below to your mailbox.

Now, for the giveaway for the week.  I’m holding an international giveaway for Waking by Ron Rash.  Deadline to enter is Oct. 22, 2011.

I reviewed the book earlier in the month and is my first experience with Rash’s work.  Have you read other Ron Rash books, if so which one and should I read it?

I also posted a poem from the collection in the Virtual Poetry Circle.

Please leave a comment if you are interested in this book.