The Jackal Who Thought He Was a Peacock

Based on a fable by Rumi and retold by Fereshteh Sarlak, star billing for this picturebook goes to the illustrator, internationally renowned Iranian artist Firoozeh Golmohammadi. Her luminous images lifted Jane Goodall’s book, Prayer for World Peace, out of the ordinary, and here we have another beautiful object in this picturebook.

In tone Rumi’s fable is not unlike those of Aesop with which western readers are familiar, and we sense from the outset that wanting to be admired for something you are not will not end well. The jackal wants to be a peacock and so bedecks himself with all manner of colourful objects, eventually persuading himself that he is one. But then he falls out of a tree when he tries to fly and so learns his lesson, with his jackal friends reminding him, ‘Dear friend, paints won’t make a peacock out of a jackal.’

This is a very attractive book, from the quality of the pages to the mystical, rich, stylish, painterly, pastel illustrations, which make full use of the possibilities a picturebook gives to play with perspective and point of view. The images themselves are dreamy, dark, vibrant and jewel-like with plenty to stop and pore over. Every aspect of the design has been considered and used well. For instance even the Arabic script on the endpapers gives an authenticity and a link to the culture the tale comes from.

A good starting point for discussion of difference, change and aspiration with younger children, but most of all a beautiful book.