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BOOK REVIEW: Shireen & Nousheen: Firework Wednesday, Celebrating Norouz, Getaway 13th

A Review by: Mahshid Modares

Published in the U.S. in 2013, Shireen and Nousheen Firework Wednesday, Celebrating Norouz, and Getaway 13th written and illustrated by Mehrzad Karimabadi and Shahrzad Karimabadi are among the most prolific children’s books. This is not the first attempt by Iranian immigrants to present Persian culture to youngsters. However, in my opinion, these three books are the most influential and the most prominent stories about Persian beliefs and values provided specifically for children. The authors have taken advantage of their background in art, their profession in photography, their familiarity with Iranian and American culture, and their family life experience to create simple and pleasant stories.

Shahrzad Karimabadi on LinkeIn

Shahrzad Karimabadi studied painting at Azad University in Tehran, and after immigrating to the U.S. she earned her B.A. in graphic design in 2004 and her M.A. in art history in 2009 from San Jose State University, California.

Mehrzad Karimababi on LinkedIn

Mehrzad Karimababi received her B.F.A. in photography in 2005 and her M.A. in theatre arts in 2009 from the same university. Mehrzad went back to Iran for one year to teach graphic design at Azad University. While in Tehran, she collaborated with filmmakers and photographers to produce short films, a multi-episode TV program and participated in Doorbin National Festival with three of her short films. She was also one of the members of executive committee for foreign films at Tehran International Short Film Festival.

Now, both sisters work as professional photographers in California.

The two main personas of the books are Shireen (six-years-old) and Nousheen (two-years-old), daughters of Shahrzad Karimabadi. Using real kids as the main characters creates a sense of vivacity in the stories. Their childish curiosity and contentment is obvious both in the text and in the illustrations. The adults’ answers to Shireen’s questions are short, wise and without any bias, racism, superstitious or irrational admiration for Persians or Persian culture. This is one of the most important messages of the three stories: having respect for all cultures around the world. In fact, the books are not written merely for Iranian children. Anyone from any background would enjoy reading them. Moreover, the presence of a kind grandmother in the stories reminds the readers of love and solidarity between three generations.

Perhaps the books owe their main success to the appealing and high quality illustrations. The backgrounds are limited to two or three colors, human figures are simple showing kind smiles, forms are two-dimensional and understandable for children. The minimalist approach seems perfect for this age group.

Shireen And Nousheen’s Firework Wednesday explains the meaning of Chaharshanbeh Souri and the celebrations of the last Tuesday night of the Iranian year while reminding the readers of the danger of fire. In page twelve we read: “Shireen asked her mom and dad to hold her hand while jumping over the fire, since this is her first time jumping. Shireen jumps over the little fire and feels like she could do absolutely anything after that!” This sentence insinuates self-confidence and power to young readers.

Shireen And Nousheen’s Celebrating Norouz explains the preparation of Haft-seen, meaning seven items that start with S sound. Haft-seen is the table setting for the Persian New Year. The story ends to an ongoing debate about what the main seven items for the table setting are by mentioning that families in different regions choose various items and those items are not necessarily exactly the same. The book’s only foible is the image of Quran, Moslem’s holly book, on pages fifteen and nineteen with no explanation about it in the text. The reason why Quran is placed in the setting remains obscure for young curious minds. Shireen And Nousheen’s Celebrating Norouz also emphasizes on the etiquette of visiting elderly adults on the first day of Norouz that is very important in Persian culture.

The third book, Shireen And Nousheen’s Getaway 13th, not only propounds the importance of nature in Persian culture but also explains people’s responsibility toward nature and all creatures. On page twelve, Mother explains to Shireen and Nousheen that the fish were just their guests for a while and the family could not keep them in a bowl for the rest of their lives. She adds: “We set them free so they can join their friends in the pond.” Another notable lesson is the closing sentence in which children are reminded that just saying a wish is not enough and they have to work hard to persuade their wishes.

All the essential lessons in these books add to the beauty of describing Norouz celebration. Adding this great series to our children’s library would definitely increases their interest in learning about Persian culture and preserving our valuable protocols.

Learn more about this series on:

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