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The Earth Shook: A Persian Tale    by Donna Jo Napoli & Gabi Swiatkowska order for
Earth Shook
by Donna Jo Napoli
Order:  USA  Can
Hyperion, 2009 (2009)
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

The inspiration for this picture book for children four years of age and older was an earthquake that rattled Bam, Iran, in 2003. In the story a little girl named Parisa (Farsi for like an angel) is awakened from her sleep by a severe trembler that tumbles her from her bed. When she stumbles outside, her home collapses behind her and the child realizes she is the only one left in her destroyed village.

After seeking refuge and help from a series of animals (a boar, turtle, bear, owl, snake, wolf and lion) that refuse to assist her, Parisa decides she will have to go-it-alone. Her resiliency and indomitable spirit eventually attract the very critters who shunned her and soon they band together with her.

Frankly, I found elements of this tale somewhat difficult to comprehend. If questioned by a child as to the meaning of the animals' actions and why they changed the child's behavior, I'd be at a loss to fully explain what was happening.

The author explains that 'much of what Parisa says in this story is a gentle allusion to Rumi, a thirteenth-century Persian mystic whose poetry speaks to the modern sensibility as piercingly as ever, and to Iranian poets today.'

Therein may lie the problem. Not familiar with the poet or Iranian culture, I obviously didn't pick up on the nuances of the text. This isn't necessarily a negative, but it does mean you'll have to work a little harder to grasp the underlying message of the book. That may not be a bad thing. God knows it is certainly time for us to try to understand and appreciate other cultures!

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