When I first got my hands on The Conference of the Birds, I read it immediately, twice. This book demands, deserves and rewards thorough re-reading, sWhen I first got my hands on The Conference of the Birds, I read it immediately, twice. This book demands, deserves and rewards thorough re-reading, so I slept on it for a few days, then spent a long time exploring and examining its detail. I will undoubtedly find more to discover every time I look at it for the rest of my life!
It's astonishing how Peter Sis were able to conceive and execute this book based on the Persian 4,500 line epic poem by Farid Ud-Din Attar, written in 1177. Sis’s pithy language gave the book great power, but his pictures make this classic resonate today.
Sis’s attention to detail is so mind boggling that I resorted to a magnifying glass to examine some scenes, particularly the early ones showing the conference of all the birds, as they gather to question how they would know if this king exists. I wondered how Sis had managed to made some birds look female.
On close inspection, I loved seeing that the ones I’d identified as female had eyelashes! I also enjoyed examining the individual expressions on each bird's face in the scenes where vast multitudes of birds, all different, are being exhorted to go find the King.
When the birds take on faith that there is a king because they see the beautiful drawing of a feather, I wondered how many times I have taken something on faith because of its beauty…
As the book progresses, mysterious medallions appear, often looking like only faintly inked stamps. While I didn't at first know where this was going, I let myself be swept along, simply liking them a lot. The same can be said for the mazes and the mandala shapes, so mysterious, in their power to draw me on.
I liked the birds bravely diving straight towards the center of the deserts and mountain ranges and, finally, the mandala that turns out to be Kaf.
I became so engrossed in this book that eventually I made a little diagram of each of the seven valleys for myself. From this, I grew to really appreciate the very powerful and not immediately obvious (to me) underlying pattern that Sis used to illustrate each valley. Not only his pattern, but the changing colors really hooked me.
Each of the seven valleys possessed such insightful metaphors for life that I began to see why this was published as an adult book. But none the less, I hope kids, (Peter Sis’s usual audience,) will stumble on this book and become lost in its wonder, even if they may need time to grow to appreciate its wisdom fully.
When the birds reached the mountain of Kaf, I loved diving with them into the mandala, getting closer and closer not only to the mountain, but flying closer and closer together until they are one. Of course I loved the end and I will not give it away, but will just say I was thrilled to see how Sis bought the whole mysterious book together. At the moment of revelation, the word that first sprang to my mind was “elegant,” followed by “mystical,” “mysterious” and “profound.”
Treat yourself! Lavish time on this book for an illuminating experience. Peter Sis has succeeded in giving us that rare gift of a gorgeous book whose meaning can never be captured by words alone. Maybe, as an adult, I need to be swept away to this dimension more frequently!...more