Aimed at readers as young as eight years old, American author Demi's 2009, 31-page book RUMI: WHIRLING DERVISH will at a minimum nicely adorn your living room coffee table.
Does this introductory remark smack of a put-down of a beautifully illustrated book?
I see three sets of likely readers of this handsome book:
-- (1) Adults reading text and admiring illustrations FOR THEMSELVES ALONE.
-- (2) Adults introducing this text to CHILDREN
-- (3) Children ON THEIR OWN reading text and looking at pictures.
My wife and I having introduced this book to granddaughters aged 8 and 11, I know about all three categories of likely readers.
-- (1) Adults picking this book off your coffee table and leafing through it leisurely without being distracted by chatting with their hosts can learn all they need to know in 15 minutes. The map called "Rumi's World" is gorgeous in blue and gold and is helpful to any adult viewer who is already familiar with that part of the world. The text is clearly written and brings Jalaluddin Rumi to three-dimensional life as student, wanderer, husband, father, teacher, mystic, poet and creator of Sufi dance as a way to love God. Adults will see Rumi as emphasizing the kind and loving dimensions within Islam.
-- (2) Adults helping children 8 - 14 or thereabouts tackle RUMI: WHIRLING DERVISH will find children able to follow the story pretty well from illustrations alone even without animadverting to text. And, Arabic names apart, an adult will be pleased to see normally well educated children also enjoying the clearly written text: biography and poetry alike -- with perhaps less help than you might feel obliged to offer.
-- (3) Children tackling this book without adult help are who worry me. They probably don't know all that much English poetry. And making sense of Islamic religious poetry translated from Persian is asking a lot. A normal American child will not know where "Rumi's World" is located. A second map for which, in effect, that sole map in the book is essentially a mere inset would be a big help.
Rumi in the West, especially to tourists to Turkey and visiting his hometown of Konya, associate him not so much with his many thousand immortal verses but with the whirling dance that he created as an instrument to draw closer to God. A typical 8-year old American child will never have seen such dance and this book gives, in effect, only snapshots. Perhaps future editions will include a DVD of dancers (or online links such as http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_Cf-ZxDfZA) and more geographical information.
BOTTOM LINE: the older the child, the more likely she will be to do justice to RUMI: WHIRLING DERVISH. In most houses this book will likely serve to turn your coffee table into a kind of shrine -- at best. A book for for looking at than for reading.
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