cover image The Earth Shook: A Persian Tale

The Earth Shook: A Persian Tale

Donna Jo Napoli, , illus. by Gabi Swiatkowska. . Disney-Hyperion, $15.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-1-4231-0448-3

Napoli (Ready to Dream ) reworks folktale elements into a new and startling whole. After an earthquake, dark-haired Parisa is her town's lone survivor. Only menacing animals—Boar, Snapping Turtle, Bear, Owl, Snake, Wolf and Lion—remain. When she approaches them, they threaten her (Boar says her hands remind him of a hunter: “Run, or I'll gore a hole through you”). Swiatkowska's (My Name Is Yoon ) oil paintings give these nightmarish scenes a luxurious richness, using thick brushstrokes, vivid forms and milky, dreamlike colors. At first, Parisa conforms to the animals' wishes, covering the parts of her body they object to. But she soon resolves to “just be with myself. And do what humans do.” She grows things, dances, laughs and cooks, and when she does, the animals come to her freely. Although it could be read as a defense of the special position of humans, Parisa's story is better understood as a statement about the courage to be true to oneself, and the way the world aligns itself with those who do. While the story contains some frightening images, the questions it poses are important. Ages 4–8. (Aug.)