Thursday, November 3, 2011

TLC Book Tour Review: Peter Sis' The Conference of the Birds

When I took Peter Sis’ The Conference of the Birds out of the envelope and paged through it, I thought, “This is easily the most beautiful book that has ever been in my hands.” The paper is textured and the colors are vibrant. A very promising start. Still, I didn’t know much about Sufi mythology—the book is adapted from a Sufi mythical poem by Farid od-Din 'Attar– so I did a web search to try to contextualize the story. If you’re interested, you can find more information about Sufism here.

The story appears to be a simple parable of all the birds in the world deciding to search for their true king, Simorgh, urged on by their leader, Hoopoe.

Come on, you brave birds!

Let’s glide, let’s fly, let’s soar.

Love loves difficult things.

We’re on our way!

But it’s actually so much more than that: The Conference of the Birds has the look and feel of a gorgeous children’s picture book, yet it tackles some of the deepest philosophical questions humans can ask: Who are we? What is truth? What is the nature of God?

The simplicity of the language and the childlike illustrations probably make comparisons to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince inevitable. And the book certainly shares a dreamy quality with that famous novella. But The Conference of the Birds lacks the character development that makes The Little Prince so poignant and touching – I didn’t bond with the individual birds enough to feel sad when they dropped from the flock, or feel joy when they reached their goal.

I think where this book really succeeds is in bringing a central concept of Sufism – the concept of God within each individual – to a Western audience. That, and in the enjoyment of Sis’ gorgeous illustrations. This book is highly recommended for readers interested in mysticism, mythology or Persian culture. And also for lovers of the book as art. And also lovers of poetry.

Well, I’m happy to say that this book puts me back on the map in the Read-A-Myth Challenge – I’m still thinking I will finish that one before December. Thanks to Thanks to JoV of Bibliojunkie and Bina of If You Can Read This for hosting. And because Peter Sis is Hungarian, this also counts for the Eastern European Challenge. Thanks to my buddy Amy at The Black Sheep Dances for hosting!

I read this book as part of TLC’s book tour, and received a copy of it in return for my honest opinion. I encourage you to check out these other stops on the tour:

Tuesday, November 1st: Bibliophiliac

Wednesday, November 2nd: Book Snob

Monday, November 7th: Sarah Reads Too Much

Tuesday, November 8th: Library Queue

Wednesday, November 9th: Savvy Verse & Wit

Thursday, November 10th: Col Reads

Tuesday, November 15th: Wordsmithonia

Wednesday, November 16th: Hungry Like the Woolf

Wednesday, November 16th: Melody & Words

Monday, November 21st: Unabridged Chick

Thursday, November 22nd: Seven Impossible Things

Monday, November 28th: Alexandra Boiger

Tuesday, November 29th: Abigail Halpin

Wednesday, December 14th: Layers of Thought


  1. I'm intrigued by this book but have to wonder if I'm smart enough for it.

  2. Maybe I'm not explaining it very well, because it's definitely not too difficult -- it's just that you really have to focus to make sense of it somehow.

  3. There is something immensely pleasurable about holding a beautiful book in your hands, isn't there?!

    Thank you for the wonderful review and for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

  4. It is such a beautiful book! Thanks so much for inviting me to join the tour. I would never have found the book without it, and now I'm thinking it's a great holiday gift!

  5. I would like to learn more about Sufism and this seems like a lovely way to do so. Great holiday gift as well I would think.

  6. This book sounds unlike anything I have ever read before, in a good way!

  7. I love it when books tackle those tough questions; I read for answers to those as much as anything, although for me, the ultimate anwers lie in the Bible. Anyway, it's always interesting to read/think/discuss philosophical questions.

    So sorry for the difficulty going on in your school. Education in general is so hard these days, and one hardly needs to cope with the publicity and "poor choices" (to say the least) made by others on top of it. Thinking of you, Col.

  8. I'm so glad you and Ellie are joining What's in a Name again. I wonder what you'll pick for Creepy Crawly. Hope you have fun.

  9. @TheBookGirl -- It wasn't at all what I thought it was!

    @Amused -- Totally different for me too, especially the look and feel of it!

    @Bellezza -- Thanks so much for thinking about me. It has certainly been a very tough time, but nothing lasts forever! I appreciate your kind thoughts!

    @BFR -- Wouldn't miss it! I think I've settled on "Mosquito" from Europa. Ellie is leaning toward "The Witches of Worm" at this point.


I absolutely love comments. Thanks for taking the time to share! Col