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Today we get to look further into her world by jumping into her book The Conference of the Birds.
The Conference of the Birds re-tales the 800 year old sufi Persian poem written by Farid ud-Din Attar. In the poem the birds of the world gather to decide who is to be their new king, as they don’t have one at the moment.
The hoopoe, the wisest bird of them all, suggests that they should find the legendary Simorgh, a mythical bird which resembles the Phoenix.
The hoopoe leads this flock of 30 birds in the original story and 6 in this one, to the dwelling place of the Simorgh. Along the way each bird casts off the negative attribute it carries clearing the way to enlightenment. I will not spoil the ending for you. All I can say is that it is soul revealing.
I know this poem well but I have to be honest when I say that when this book crossed my desk (in picture book form no less) I had my doubts how this gem of a story could be condensed into a children’s version. From the first page my doubts and concerns were quickly put at ease since this story is brilliantly and simply told using rhyme.
Collaborating in perfect unison with the story are the phenomenal artistry and illustrations of Demi. Demi is on my top 10 list of favorite illustrators and she doesn’t disappoint in The Conference of the Birds. She uses vibrant deep colors, gold, and action to portray the journey of this fretting flock.
Inside this inspiring tale, virtues such as humility, patience, detachment from our worldly goods, and courage are taught and shared through beauty, kindness and encouragement. This book is a fantastic teaching tool regardless of one’s race or religion in developing a moral compass of integrity and compassion.
Something To Do:
As with all sufi tales, they are multi-layered and tend to “meet you where you are” on your own journey in life. With each re-telling the listener discovers something new about themselves and their life perspectives. The Conference of the Birds gives us the opportunity to delve deeper into the pages of this gorgeous tale.
The activities we have designed are for a variety of ages and listeners. From the very young to the very old, I hope you find many enriched reading moments together.
Author Alexis York Lumbard and Demi have created this fun coloring page of the Hoopoe bird. It’s a fun way to kick our book jump off.
Let’s look into the world of Sufism. What is it and Who are they ?
Sufism or Tasawuf, as it is known in the Muslim world, is Islamic Mysticism. Sufism isn’t a sect of Islam but an aspect or dimension of Islam. Sufism is a way of life in which the person becomes closer to God by living in harmony with all that exists and through reflecting the love of God.
Someone who practices Sufism is called a Sufi. The term Sufi comes from three Arabic letters sa, wa, and fa. The word Suf means wool and Sufis used to wear simple cloaks made of wool. Oftentimes in Sufi poetry writing the letters in words express hidden meanings. The word Sufi could also mean enlightenment coming from the Arabic word Safa which means purity. It has also been linked with the word Sufiya which is linked with the Greek word Sophia meaning wisdom.
Throughout history Sufism has created the most noted and celebrated poetry, music, and literature in the world. Famous authors and philosopher’s included Rumi, Al-Ghazali, Ib Khaldun, Attar , Ibn-Arabi, and Hafiz just to name a few.
Examples of Sufi Poetry:
It’s time to have a little poetry fun of our very own.
It’s fun to spend a wonderful afternoon creating fun poetry.
- Print the words onto a magnet sheets which can be found at any office supply store or HERE on Amazon.
- Cut and arrange them on your refrigerator or any surface which will hold magnets, such as a metal tray.
- If you can’t find magnet paper go ahead and print them onto card stock.
- Arrange your poetry onto a beautiful piece of paper and glue into place.
The Whirling Dervish come from Turkey and I recently saw a different variety of Dervish in Egypt. The Dervish of Turkey spin in a dance form while songs of remembrance are sung, connecting them to the earth, the heavens, and ultimately god.
Reader’s Theater and One Broken Rule
Reader’s Theater is reading a story aloud, like a play, without memorization, stage, or props. Each person is assigned a character role and reads their part with expression, meaning, and enthusiasm.
For the Conference of the Birds the kids created a “master” script from the book. The Hoopoe has a huge part and depending on the level of your readers, may need to be shared between a couple of people.
- Make enough copies of the Master script for everyone.
- Have each person highlight their parts for easy reading later on.
The Broken Rule…….If you have “youngers” in your family, feel free to let them use the bird stick puppets which follow, to re-enact the story as it’s being read aloud by the “olders” and adults.
Due to copyright laws I can’t place a version of our master here but I’ll tell you that part of the learning of Reader’s Theater is constructing the script as a group.
Bird Stick Puppets
- Printed Birds
- 7 Barbecue skewers
- Print out a copy of the 7 birds in the story. This includes the 6 birds plus the guide and mentor the Hoopoe.
- Cut out the birds. We just cut around the birds and didn’t cut in high detail just some detail. Remember you need enough paper to tape the stick on the back.
- Using a barbecue skewer, place the pointed side up on the back side of the bird. Tape into place.
The Hero’s Journey
The Conference of the Birds is a “Journey Myth” or a Hero’s Story. The character of the story, in this case the birds, sets out on an incredible adventure which holds nearly impossible tasks to be accomplished.
Although there is always a destination to arrive at or a road where the journey ends, the hero’s journey isn’t really about place. The hero learns lessons about himself or herself. It’s about how the hero over come their fear, short-comings and losing their negative traits.
The Hero’s Journey has 3 major sections with steps inside each one.
*The first section is the separation from the hero’s usual life. Within this section is the call or invitation to adventure, the refusal of the invitation, and the meeting with the mentor who will guide them through the journey.
*The second section of the journey is the initiation into the trials, challenges, and difficulties. This part of the journey entails crossing the first threshold, enduring tests by allies and enemies, finding new approaches to solving the trials, and facing a major ordeal.
*The third and final section is the Hero’s Return. The Hero returns to his or her former life a changed person. Steps in the final section are the reward, the road back home, the final test known as the Resurrection and the Return.
There are many books and movies which have the hero’s journey as a theme. The Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, Star Wars, The Hunger Games, and many more.
Go back and read the story finding elements of the hero’s journey in Conference of the Birds.
Who is the mentor in the story ?
- What invitation doe he make to the birds?
- What challenge does each bird face?
- Where are they going?
- What do they expect to find there?
- What do they find when they arrive?
Conditions of the Heart Craft and Activity
In the Conference of the Birds, each bird has a personal trait that they need to look at, deepen or discard to continue the journey to the Simorgh. Oftentimes we wish to instill values,morals , and character into our children but how do we do this?
This wonderful book is a great tool to teach moral values and conduct.
The following craft and activity is a starting point to building young people who think critically and carefully. The best way to instill this in our children is through conversation. Children act out what they have been modeled. Open communication is a great way to know what your child/children are thinking and it gives us parents the opportunity to share our viewpoint as well.
- 12 Cut paper hearts or foam hearts.
- Printed words and questions
Print out the page with the words and questions.
Tape the word on one side of the heart and the corresponding question(s) on the back side.
How to play:
Put all of the hearts into a box or bag and mix them up. Sitting in a circle, have everyone pick a heart.
One by one share the word on the outside of the heart. Talk about the meaning of the word first.
Next turn the heart over. Answer and discuss the questions.
To download your FREE Conditions of the Heart discussion guide (which can help facilitate your discussions) go HERE.
To download your FREE Conditions of the Heart Words and Questions, go HERE.
I’d like to say a huge thank you for the kindness of Alexis York Lumbard and her family for providing a copy of The Conference of the Birds for my family to enjoy. Opinions expressed are purely my own.
**Some of these links are affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may get a very small commission.
This money goes towards postage and supplies to keep books and ideas in the hands of young readers!