Monday, November 28, 2011

The Conference of the Birds

Today I am writing a review about The Conference of the Birds, adapted from the twelfth-century Sufi poem and illustrated by Peter Sis, published by The Penguin Press. I have been invited to take part in a virtual book tour by TLC Book Tours and do so with the perspective of an illustrator.
This is the first book Peter Sis created for adults. But really--it is a book for all ages.

Like most of you, I have known Peter Sis' work for a long time. Scranimals (written by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Peter Sis) is one of our favorite bedtime stories at home. He is a unique writer/illustrator whose work is highly acclaimed and celebrated. His style, so sophisticated and recognizable never misses a hint of humor in it. The Conference of the Birds is following this thread beautifully. Through simple text and evocative paintings, the reader follows a flight of birds on their search to find the true king, Simoorgh. The poet Attar, who realizes that he is a hoopoe bird, leads the doubtful birds on a quest through the seven valleys: quest, love, understanding, detachment, unity, amazement, and death. To find what?
I can see and feel the passion with which Peter Sis fell into this story. In this philosophic tale we learn about the venture of life, the journey of finding yourself through the search for a higher power. Someone to guide you by overcoming all sorts of obstacles, which in most cases lie simply within us. How many times have you stood in your own way? Well, that is how I related to this book. I feel, depending on what phase one is in life (age, experiences, family) this story will mean particular things to each of us.  Peter Sis' style captures the mood of the text perfectly. The seriousness is lightened up by the humor I find in the depiction of the birds. The page turn is done not only with the understanding of an illustrator, but also a cinematographer. A beautiful book. I think, I will read it differently ten years from now and again in a different way ten years after that. Peter Sis has clearly applied all his knowledge as a storyteller and illustrated with his heart feeding of his own life experience. Did I already say it? A gorgeous book with many layers. I intend to peel them one by one over the years to come.

If you would like to hear more about the Conference of The Birds in Peter Sis' own words, please listen the the two links below.

Peter Sis Interview at BEA 2011
Peter Sis on NPR