The Little Black Fish

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An Eloquent New Translation of a Beloved Persian Tale
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Reader reviewed by Grady Harp (Los Angeles, CA United States)

One of the more popular Persian children's stories, 'The Little Black Fish' was written well over a quarter of a century ago by Samad Beh-Rang. Now, thanks to Ruby Emam's beautiful new translation accompanied by the stunning paintings by Arien Walizadeh that serve to illustrate this story, 'The Little Black Fish' is bound to become a staple in the children's literature in this country. Not that the book is confined to the shelves marked for children's books: this is a fable that holds powerful metaphors for the adult reader also.


The little black fish is discontent to remain in the moonless dark of his overprotective mother and yearns to discover the origin of the brook in which they live. His inquisitive nature and his longing for knowledge and adventure initiates his journey down the brook, a journey that introduces him to the dangers of the world outside, the transient figures that would prevent his search of life's beginning - 'monsters' such as a terrified crab, the desertion of his friends who fear the consequences of such a journey, the prejudice of a frog and tadpoles, and the threat of being consumed by the floppy lower beak of a pelican. Into his life come visits with people and animals outside his aqueous environment, the moon who informs him of the intention of mankind to travel from the earth to the moon, and encounters that allow him roles of bravery and leadership.


Stories such as 'The Little Black Fish' prove that children's literature at the global level can at times provide more insight into life as we adults are living it. The lessons presented here are important in Emam's fine translation are offered in a trusting and loving manner. The book is written for 'Ages 8+', but there are portions of the narrative that may be beyond the vocabulary of 8 year olds. No fear, pauses and explanations by adult readers in these portions may just emphasize concepts equally important to the more knowledgeable adult reader - and it seems as though Emam has that in mind. This is a lovely little book, both in content, in its English translation and in the beautiful design and art in which it is shared.

Grady Harp, March 09

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