A Fistful of Pearls and Other Tales from Iraq (Folktales from Around the World) Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-04-28 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 4 user ratings

"I have had this book for quite some time and even though it is short haven't read it until now. I'm Iraqi originally but was born and live in London but stories from my homeland haven't been lacking in my childhood, yes, I read more english books than arabic ones but to me the rare times in which a folk tale is told makes it that much more special. This books just brought all that back to the surface, it was nice to read some of the stories and recognising them and it is especially great seeing hints here and there of European fairytale motifs in these Middle Eastern tales :)" said.

"Some stories were better than others, but overall this is a lovely collection. The Sign Of The Tassel (in which a wife cures her husband of his temper) and I Want My Son! (in which an imaginative mother and daughter end up catching a husband for the daughter quite by accident) were sweet and funny. My favourite story was the titular one, however -- as soon as I read the opening sentence (Once upon a time there was a merchant who had three daughters.) I knew it was going to be a variant on Beauty and the Beast. It turned out to be more like Cupid and Psyche, and it was quite wonderful." said.

"I really liked this book! I recommend it for 3-6th. The stories are well written and they have a great message to them. I read one to my nephew and he wanted me to keep reading the next one. I woudln't recommend reading them all at one time. They are sweeter if they are read a little at a time. Some of the story lines are similar. For example, in a couple of stories the prince wants to meet the daughter of the man he meets and ends up marrying her. My brother, who is a special education teacher for 4-6th students heard me reading the stories and copied the name of the book. "I want to order that for my classroom," he said.
In my opinion, the best story is the first one about a sacrifical friendship.
" said.

"This is a little book of nine folktales from Iraq. The author was first inspired to collect these tales after living in Iraq, a story she dedicates most of her introduction to. A lot of it also describes the political and social conditions of Iraq and the impact it’s had on the oral tradition.

Though it is minimally illustrated, this collection is of chapter book trim size and formatted as such. Most of the stories included are long and lyrically told, and thus would be best suited for older elementary school children at the youngest, perhaps fourth or fifth grade. The stories that offer the best storytelling promise are “Lazy Ahmed”, “The Suit of Stone”, “The Pot That Had Babies”, and “A Fistful of Pearls”.

There are source notes at the back in the acknowledgement section, though they are not especially detailed and really only mention a short list of five other folktale collections the tales were adapted from. There is however a mention of the original languages used for some of the tales.
" said.

" I liked the stories, but I occasionally found myself thrown by a character's word choice. (Like the word "ain't", which I really don't see popping up in Arabic speech.) Otherwise, I enjoyed the stories, and thought the book included a pretty broad range of subjects and styles. " said.

"A tiny collection of Iraqi folktales adapted by an author who obviously loved her time in Iraq.

Award-winning novelist Elizabeth Laird has gathered together the very best Iraqi stories during her time in the Middle East...Meticulously researched and elegantly retold, the stories reveal the true, traditional heart of Iraq, far removed from today's news headlines.

While Laird's love for Iraq and travelling the world is made clear in her introduction to A Fistful of Pearls, I couldn't help but sense her adaptations were heavily anglicized. For example, in "Zirak and the Ring-Dove," Zirak says to Ring-Dove, "Ain't no one can hold a candle to you, girl, and that's my last word on the subject." Word choices like that jarred me out of more than one story. If not for the illustrations by Shelley Fowles, character names, and a few Middle Eastern specific references (Caliph, jinn), I would not have know these tales were from Iraq.

Best used as a brief introduction to Iraqi folklore. If you're seeking more connectedness to original stories the peoples of the Middle East have shared for centuries, do what I'm doing, seek out the source material Laird used for A Fistful of Pearls.

3 stars


"Lazy Ahmed" - A clever wife saves the day. I couldn't help noting, though, that lying and cheating are rewarded.

"Zirak and the Ring-Dove" - A tale of friendship and self-sacrifice.

"The Pots that had Babies" - It never pays to be stingy.

"The Moon Pool" - A clever hare saves her people and teaches the bullies a lesson.

"The Suit of Stone" - An arrogant tailor is saved by a clever daughter.

"A Fistful of Pearls" - A young girl and a young prince (son of the Sultan of the Jinns) fall in love. Reminded me of Beauty and the Beast tales.

"The Sign of the Tassel" - A clever wife devises a way to calm her hot-tempered husband.

"A Coat for a King" - A trickster tale involving a wolf and a lion.

"I Want my Son!" - Not really sure about the point of this one. Kindness leads to greater rewards?

Laird's sources as listed in the Acknowledgments:

Tales From the Arab Tribes: The Oral Traditions Among the Great Arab Tribes of Southern Iraq, C.G. Campbell, 1949

Folktales from the City of the Golden Domes, Sarah Powell Jamali, 1965

Folktales of Iraq, E.S. Stevens, 1931

Arab Folktales, Inea Bushnaq, 1986

The Fables Of Kalilah And Dimnah, (trans) Saleh Sa'adeh Jallad, 2002
" said.

June 2018 New Book:

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