Saturday, 28 January 2012

Book Review: Asma Iftikhar - The Poor King

The Poor King is the story of an old man who lives in a hut made of mud and straw. He insists he is a king with a palace and servants much to the amusements of villagers who look on him with fondness. He is happy with his solitary life, spending his time caring for his sheep and cattle and sitting on his worn old rug to reflect in silence.

This is until he falls sick and a number of people come to visit him, changing his life – the handsome cloth merchant who wants to take him home, the physician who wants to heal him and a final, unexpected little visitor.

The story appears to be an analogy of mans ability to be content with what he has or choose to be taken in by desire for the wealth of the world (dunya) and lose his contentment.

The language used is simple but evocative, with some startling images; the handsome merchant with his “olive skin and almond-shaped eyes”, the child in the startling white clothes, which stand out in a story that otherwise flows with a gentle rhythm.

This is not an easy book with a simple story and a happy ending, but a more layered story with the villagers in the background, the visitors own agenda’s and the kings behaviour and reactions not always obvious to interpret. I did wonder if my children would be able to understand the messages in the book.

The images accompanying the story are simple line drawings softly filled in with washes of soft colours creating an impression of what is happening and a mood rather than the clear and descriptive drawings you more commonly find in children’s books. The effect is haunting and it makes you wonder rather than tell you what to think.

This is a touching book to be read many times to get an understanding of what the messages behind the story are. One that will make children think and stay with them after they have finished it. My daughter’s verdict on the book: “I really liked it mum, it made me feel sad.”





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