Every so often a children’s book comes along that is just so beautifully illustrated it takes your breath away. The Girl With A Brave Heart is one of those.
We have long been a fan of Barefoot Books – their ethos of combining colourful, bright artwork with captivating storytelling is one that appeals to me greatly – and I am thrilled that this latest offering lives up to and perhaps even surpasses their usual high standards.
The story is a dark one in parts. Shiraz is a young girl growing up in Tehran, living with her stepmother after both her parents died. When a ball of her wool blows away into a neighbour’s garden, Shiraz sets off to retrieve it. The neighbour sets her a series of tasks before returning the wool, and it is Shiraz’s response to these tasks that reveals what a kind, generous character she has despite her life of hardship. This is in stark contrast with her stepsister, who is set the same tasks the following day, and has a very different experience.
I will confess that when I was reading this book to DorkySon, I skipped the first two pages, detailing the loss of Shiraz’s parents. Having just turned four, he is at the very lower end of the recommended age range for this book, and I wasn’t quite ready for that conversation yet!
That said, I was pleasantly surprised by how well it held his attention. Very often, if a book isn’t packed with vehicles, he’ll discard it after a few pages, but he remained enthralled by this one right through to the end. He engaged with it emotionally, telling me which characters he thought were behaving nicely, and which ones weren’t so nice. And he absolutely loved poring over the vibrant illustrations – trying to spot the ball of red wool, asking about the different plants and animals, and saying with a slight pang of longing in his voice that he wished we could have such a brightly coloured kitchen.
One of the lovely things about Barefoot Books is that they educate children, and gently open their eyes to the world, without them even really realising. The illustrations in the book promoted one discussion with DorkySon about how people living in different countries wear different clothes, and then another about how people eat differently.
The New York Times gave The Girl With A Brave Heart a great review, claiming that it is all about girl power. That may be true, but it definitely doesn’t mean that it’s only a book that will appeal to girls. The themes of bravery and humility transcend the boundaries of gender, in the same way that the beautiful illustrations allow even the most complex of Barefoot stories to transcend the boundaries of age.
I feel very much like The Girl With A Brave Heart is a book that is going to grow with us. At four, DorkySon grasped the basics of the story and adored the illustrations, but as he gets older I have no doubt that he is going to revisit it, work through the layers of the narrative, and take more from it every time. I am so pleased that this book has been added to our collection.
Disclosure: I received a copy of The Girl With A Brave Heart for the purposes of this review. I received no other payment, and all opinions are my own.