cover image The Secret Message

The Secret Message

Mina Javaherbin, illus. by Bruce Whatley, Disney-Hyperion, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4231-1044-6

Whatley's (Diary of a Wombat) lighthearted touch animates this 13th-century Persian fable, based on a poem by Rumi. The pompous Persian merchant who stars has a bulbous nose, a quizzical expression, and the physique of one of Snow White's dwarfs. His caged parrot has helped him attract customers, and the merchant has prospered over the years. The parrot asks the India-bound merchant to carry news of his captivity to his free relatives as he passes through the forest. The merchant is shocked by the parrots' response: "Suddenly, one by one, they fell off the branches with their backs on the ground and their feet in the air. Their bodies lay still under the shadow of the banyan canopy." When he delivers this news back at home, his parrot collapses, too, and the anguished merchant removes him from his cage—whereupon the parrot flies away, "...thanks to the message from my friends in India!" Javaherbin (Goal!) tells the story simply, and Whatley's insouciance takes some of the shock out of the parrots' "deaths." After the first suspenseful reading, children should clamor for repeats. Ages 4–7. (Oct.)