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The Conference of the Birds

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Late one moonless night in a far corner of the world there gathered a large flock of birds. They gathered in sorrow, since they had been, for so very long, deprived of a king.

Thus begins the magical adventure of these wayfaring birds. With encouragement from their wise guide, the hoopoe bird, they overcome fears, physical handicaps, and their own inner weakness in order to reach the heights of the mountain to meet their King.

Children and adults alike will relate to this inspiring tale about conquering one's faults and practicing the virtues of humility, patience, detachment from worldly goods, and courage.

Lavishly illustrated and based on an 800 year old classical tale, this fascinating and beautiful book will delight children and provide parents with a wonderful tool for teaching children about moral development.

Ages 6 and up.

-from the jacket flap

40 pages, Hardcover

First published September 16, 2012

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About the author

Rabiah York Lumbard

9 books66 followers
Alexis York Lumbard aka Rabiah York Lumbard is an American Muslim children’s book writer whose debut picture book, The Conference of the Birds with illustrations by renowned artist Demi (Wisdom Tales Press, Sept. 2012), is a contemporary retelling of the classic Islamic work by the 13th century poet Farid ad-Din Attar. Her most recent picture book, The Gift of Ramadan, is a heart-centered approach to the Muslim holiday that goes beyond food to the original impulse of the sacred month (Albert Whitman, April 2019). She has several other PB titles including Everyone Prays: Celebrating Faith Around the World, Pine & the Winter Sparrow, and When the Animals Saved Earth--winner of 2015 Middle East Book Award. No True Believers is her upcoming YA debut title, a conspiracy thriller with Crown (Feb 2020). She currently lives in Doha with her husband and three daughters. An active member of SCBWI and a current MFA student at Spalding University, Alexis regularly visits schools, mosques and libraries to share her passion of books, storytelling and the various places she calls home (Doha, Qatar, Washington DC and Nashville, TN). Favorite pastimes include rescuing Arabian Maus and kayaking in the Persian Arabian Gulf.

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5 stars
75 (52%)
4 stars
42 (29%)
3 stars
16 (11%)
2 stars
8 (5%)
1 star
2 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 40 reviews
Profile Image for Nan.
57 reviews
November 6, 2014
This is a beautifully illustrated and unsophisticated version of the philosophical religious poem based on a thirteenth century Sufi parable by Attar and re- written for young people. I could not get through the stuffy translation I've had for years, and always wondered just what this book is about. Ms Lumbard extracts the essence of the book and creates a poetic tale of beauty and truth. What a lovely way to get across to youngsters (and, in fact, anyone) to look inside to find their true selves.
I will be getting a copy of this to send to my grandchildren.
Profile Image for Sherry Schwabacher.
341 reviews7 followers
March 12, 2018
This beautiful adaptation of an 800-year-old Sufi poem is an inspiring story of the adventures of a flock of wayfaring birds in search of their king. It has tales of overcoming fear, physical hardship, and inner limitations. I've read this aloud to both children and adults with great response.
Profile Image for Shirleynature.
199 reviews59 followers
September 21, 2021
This beautiful, richly illustrated retelling from South West Asian and North African (SWANA) spirituality helped to better understand more of the context in The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar.
Profile Image for Nadia.
84 reviews29 followers
December 18, 2012
The Conference of the Birds Retold by Alexis York Lumbard Illustrated by Demi

This is a beautiful children’s book of faith and belief. A work of Persian Sufi poetry that is said to be "the most outstanding of these works is the Mantiq al-Tayr (translated usually as The Conference of the Birds) by Farid al-Din Attar, the 12th century Persian Poet who is one of the greatest figures in the history of Sufi poetry..."
My son was engrossed in the story and asked questions about a lot of the lessons. He asked why the birds didn't think they had a king. He wondered why some of the birds were anxious to fly to find their king while others were not. It was a fun adventure to take with him and be able to discuss our beliefs and faith together.
The Illustrations alone are worth a look. I loved all the birds. Of course "the bird with black-tipped feathers on her head and a sacred prayer inscribed upon her beak..." is my favorite, the "O honorable hoopoe." She is the true believer and leads those with doubt to faith.
Profile Image for Zoya.
42 reviews16 followers
August 9, 2014
I was planning to read Farid Attar's The Conference of the Birds, but looking at the various edition saw this one and couldn't resist getting it for my bird-loving six-year-old. It turned out to be a very timely and poignant read as our family is about to embark on a long journey, which I suspect will be very challenging emotionally and will change all of us. Hopefully the lessons raised in this parable will help as to recognize our own limitations, to face obstacles and to be kind and helpful towards each other. And after reading this brief retelling I am even more willing to read Farid Attar’s whole poem.
1 review2 followers
August 24, 2012
I read this book with my dad, and we both really felt moved by it. In an age of media saturation, there is very little that takes deep spiritual lessons and conveys them through beauty in a way that resonates regardless of one's age or creed. I hope that the author produces more books like this and that others will be inspired by them and inspired to follow her lead in their own creative and spiritual pursuits.
Profile Image for Mas'ud Khan.
2 reviews185 followers
March 15, 2013
What a wonderfully abridged and illustrated edition of this classic text of Islamic spirituality. This book can be enjoyed by both children and adults and an ideal book to read together with your children. It is one of those books that your can read and re-read without it ever getting boring or tired.

A must for every Muslim household and bibliophiles everywhere!
Profile Image for Jalilah.
373 reviews90 followers
April 29, 2022
A beautiful translation of the medieval Sufi poem The Conference of the Birds intended more for children, however all ages would definitely appreciate it. I certainly did! The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous.
This book would be a good introduction for anyone interested in Sufi mysticism.
Profile Image for Vidya Tiru.
538 reviews145 followers
November 20, 2012
Retold by Alexis York Lumbard, illustrated by Demi,
Wisdom Tales,
44 pages
Bright, colorful, detailed illustrations of the birds provide a vibrant setting for this retelling of Mantiq al-Tayr (translated as ‘The Conference of the Birds’), a Persian book of poems by Farid ud-Din Attar.
The birds have all gathered in despair – they do not have a leader to guide them. The wise hoopoe informs them of a king and inspires them to join her on a quest to meet the king. Through their journey, they discover and conquer their failings (the duck is lazy, the finch fearful, and the hawk wants to be first). The book makes perfect use of both wonderful prose and colorful illustrations that complement each other to convey these messages. It provides a way for parents to teach moral and spiritual values to kids without being preachy and works across diverse cultures and religions. So many birds are portrayed here and this also provides learning opportunities in a fun way as kids figure out the birds pictured here so beautifully.
The book is the second from these publishers that I have read and enjoyed and I look forward to more. These books have been revelations for me to the immense world we live in – I am now eager to discover more of Sufi poetry than before to begin with.
Rating: A
Reading Level: 4 and up
Reread factor: 4/5

Disclaimer:Thank you to NetGalley for sending me a digital review copy of all these books reviewed today. I was not compensated for my review. My thoughts on these books were in no way influenced by the author or publicist. They are my personal opinions formed when I read them.
Profile Image for Heidi.
2,638 reviews52 followers
March 19, 2013
The minute I realized this book was illustrated by Demi, I knew it would be beautiful. And it is, very much so. I loved looking at the beautiful drawings/paintings, the rich colors with the intricate borders are typical Demi. What amazed me about this was the detail. On the borders of drawing Demi shows the movements of a particular kind of bird. The time and effort this must have taken in learning how birds move and fly. Her illustrations are always so delicate looking, yet stunning, I almost wished the birds would hop from the page onto my hand so I could get a better look at them.

I loved the story as well. As the synopsis describes there are many themes shared in the story, like many folktales, and this one has a strong Christian feel to it, although God is referred to mostly as the King. I liked the fact that the birds had a leader, someone to follow. This reminded me that all of us need role models, young and old alike. I also appreciated the theme of sacrifice and how some of the birds had to sacrifice something in order to make the journey, whether it was a possession, an attitude, a bad habit, they had to go in order for the birds to make it to their destination safely. A beautiful story, beautifully told about the journey of life, especially appropriate for Christians, parents or children.
Profile Image for Barbara.
13k reviews268 followers
March 3, 2018
When a flock of birds gathers together, they are distressed because they have no ruler, and they're worried about possible turmoil. But one special bird, the hoopoe, reassures the others, telling them about King Simorgh the Wise, and convincing them to make the hard journey to meet this king. Most of the birds are excited to go, but the duck is hesitant at first, and once they are traveling, the parrot is loaded down with too much jewelry, the owl belittles the finch, the partridge grows impatient, and the hawk rushes ahead of the others when it seems the end is in sight. At each point, the hoopoe provides encouragement and explains that each of these experiences is helping the birds get past their concerns and let go of their character flaws, including pride, they are ready to meet the king they've worked so hard to reach. But there is no physical king; instead, they have reached God and bask in that embrace. Older readers will quickly see the religious overtones in the opening pages, while others will need to reach the final page to do so. Even though the story has roots in Sufi poetry, it carries a strong message about conquering our own inner weaknesses and not letting others hold us back that moves through and transcends all faiths. The mixed media illustrations are colorful, detailed, and filled with gold, which makes them eye-catching.
185 reviews1 follower
December 27, 2017
Beautifully illustrated and a joy to read. My fpur year old son loved it too and asked questions at nearly every page. At times the language was a bit too majestic for a child so I had to put it in more simpler terms for my son but this book is much better than most of the Islamic children's books that are available.
Profile Image for Beth.
910 reviews
December 12, 2012
This book was not at all what I expected. It was very sweet, and I loved the message. I know a lot of people at our library that would enjoy this book. (I won this books as a giveaway on Goodreads.)
Profile Image for Russell Irving.
Author 7 books1 follower
August 9, 2021
One of the many joys of being a new author of children's books is the opportunity it provides to discover so many wonderful new books that are out there. Books I wish I new about when raising my kids but at least can now share with them through theirs as a grandparent.

This book is one such example, as are many others I am discovering under the Wisdom Books label.

I'm not very familiar with the original Sufi parable so can't comment on how closely this retelling resembles it. However, I don't feel that's the point. What this book does do is provide an easily accessible, beautifully illustrated allegory of the journey we all take on our spiritual quest through life, whether we are conscious of it or not. Most of the common human frailties, vanities, and deceptions are dealt with and overcome as lessons in patience, perseverance, and humility. The arrival at the ultimate destination provides a timely reminder that we all hold the key to our own individual, personal and spiritual fulfillment within us.
Profile Image for MindfulMuslimReader.
154 reviews5 followers
November 9, 2022
Bring the classical literary tradition of Islamic civilization to life for your child with this beautifully illustrated rendition of the Persian poem The Conference of the Birds, originally written 800 years ago by Attar of Nishapur. A metaphor for the purification of the heart, this poem about ihsan (harmonizing excellence) is retold and illustrated with ihsan by Alexis York Lumbard and the brilliant artist Demi.

We rate children's books for virtue, language, story, and beauty and flag content advisories when needed.

Read more at MindfulMuslimReader.com.
“Books Worth Reading”
Profile Image for Robin.
239 reviews3 followers
March 2, 2021
A picture book based on a 13th C Sufi parable by Attar. The story was referred to in the another book I read, "Apeirogon", and I wanted to read the text for myself. The poet Attar was a main inspiration of Rumi; and Rumi is a main inspiration for me! "Late one moonless night in a far corner of the world, there gathered a large flock of birds . . . . And now that every one of us has shed sin's mighty hold of inner faults and outer flaws, prepare yourselves! Behold! ... All was dazzling light."
Profile Image for Cheriee Weichel.
2,413 reviews34 followers
January 21, 2019
OMG, this book is absolutely stunning.
I recently read Peter Sis' adaptation of this poem and didn't think anything else could possibly compare. I was wrong. Demi's birds are elegantly splendid. The golden borders on each page are lavishly spectacular. The prose is much more accessible and straight forward than Peter Sis' version, although both are beautiful to read.
Profile Image for Kristen.
187 reviews
March 21, 2019
Absolutely gorgeous, and a well-told adaptation for children of this famous tale. Helpful introduction and bit of context for adults. I turned to this for a brief refresher when reading G. Willow Wilson's wonderful new novel The Bird King. Highly recommend that book too for adults fans of this story!
Profile Image for Safoora Nazeer.
3 reviews2 followers
October 14, 2020
Such a beautiful and inspiring children’s book. I can say that it’s such a treat to look at and get some inspiration from for the adults as well, with the beautiful illustration and simple yet succinct poetic translation by the very talented Rabiah Lumbard and illustrated by Demi.
Highly recommended for any Muslim children’s library/ home book shelf.
Profile Image for Lydia Mills.
33 reviews
September 27, 2020
Cute and memorable Allegory about some of the unhelpful Attitudes that might halt us in our personal life.

Certainly upon reflection we might remember or realise a state we were in similar predicaments to each of the representative birds, and how a little Hope and Humility goes a long way.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
2,979 reviews5 followers
July 6, 2021
Very pretty art! I understand this version cuts out a bit of the original, making it the right length for a picture book.
Profile Image for Wajida.
2 reviews68 followers
December 24, 2012
My family and I read this book together as soon as our copy arrived. Between the four of us- ages 52, 48, 22 and 17- we were all deeply moved and left with wonder by the end. The illustrations and the text complemented each other perfectly, with majesty, profundity and simplicity. Alexis York Lumbard has not only truly grasped the essence of Attar's timeless poem, she has provided parents and teachers a fantastic way of teaching its universal spiritual values to children. Coupled with Demi's breathtaking illustrations, this book is simply a gem for any and all libraries! And it certainly needs to be translated into a variety of languages, as soon as possible.

All the birds in the book spoke to some human weakness in us all, but for my sister and me, our favourite bird was the little finch who started to tremble when a mighty storm was approaching. How often have we felt the finch's doubt and fear in times of chaos and uncertainty? The hoopoe said, "Deep in the darkness of the storm/ Heaven will see you through,/ We all have the strength we need/ Including little you!" What a wonderful rhyme from the wise hoopoe to encourage and comfort children (and all of us!) in times of difficulty.

Both of these women have wonderful gifts to be able to reach into little young hearts and minds-- but they also have the talent of awakening the awe-inspired, golden-hearted child in us all.
Profile Image for David.
436 reviews7 followers
December 27, 2013
I'm ambivalent, for this should be rated 5 stars as a parable for young children, read to by parents or teachers, with excellent appealing colored illustrations by Demi. Yet it almost totally lacks the moral, ethical, inner feeling that must be in the 13th century original by Attar, and thus should be rated as 3 stars. Consequently the compromise is 4 stars. Reading the forty pages is easy and charming, the setting is fine, yet this "retelling" seems to lack the message to have faith and courage and persistence so as to overcome fears, physical hardships, and in time the birds led by the wise hoopoe bird will overcome their own inner weakness. The book appealed greatly to me given my interest in birds, and having seen my first hoopoe in Israel and another when with my son Douglas in Nepal.
Profile Image for Norziati.
Author 5 books74 followers
August 5, 2014
Apa yang boleh dikatakan tentang The Conference of the Birds karya Fariduddin Attar ini? Meski pun ini versi kanak-kanak, kearifan bahasanya tetap terjaga bagi memastikan makna dapat dihantarkan dengan jelas. Gambar yang dilukis sedikit sebanyak dapat menggambarkan keadaan burung-burung yang berusaha mencari Raja Simorgh, yang kemudian menemui diri mereka pada akhirnya. The Conference of the Birds atau Musyawarah Burung, sebuah karya sufistik yang kekal dibaca dan dikaji, seharum wangian attar pada namanya, Fariduddin Attar.

But none of us could ever see / His light of truth within /
Unless the mirror of the heart / is free of dust and sin /

And now that every one of us / Ha shed sin's mighty hold /
Of inner faults and outer flaws / Prepare yourselves! behold!
Profile Image for Samer.
14 reviews
January 30, 2014
This is indeed a beautiful work of art; expertly crafted with concise wording, a deeper meaning, gorgeous illustration, and a great poem to build off of.

This book is easily enjoyed by children and the adults reading it to them, or just as a quick read for adults. There is some beautiful meanings to be extracted from it.
Profile Image for Melissa.
776 reviews66 followers
January 22, 2013
In order to complete a difficult journey, the duck must not procrastinate, the parrot must give up his heavy jewels, the finch must be courageous despite its small size, the partridge must not be impatient, and the hawk must let go of his need to finish first.
Profile Image for Robynn.
661 reviews
December 7, 2014
A very different telling of this epic poem. Demi's luscious drawings and Seyyed's delicate poetry tell the story of the birds journey to find the great king.

Peter Sis' version is worth comparing.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 40 reviews

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