Seven Daughters and Seven Sons

by Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy

I’m sorry to say that the first new book I’ve read since March (aside from some great picture books I’ll review shortly) was this piece of fluff. There are no Wikipedia entries for the book or either of the two authors, which I take to be a bad sign. Actually, in hindsight, there were plenty of bad signs. But on with the review.

The story is based on an Iraqi folktale, and perhaps if either Ms. Cohen or Ms. Lovejoy were decent storytellers, I would have enjoyed the book. Broken into three parts, it tells of Buran, one of seven daughters of a poor shopkeeper. Her uncle is much more prosperous and has been blessed with seven sons. However, aside from this background information and one further scene involving Buran’s male cousins, there is no reason for “seven sons” to be part of the title. In fact, Buran’s sisters were included so infrequently that I couldn’t name a single one of them. This story is about Buran, who disguises herself as a man in order to travel to distant lands and set up a shop, thereby becoming infinitely wealthy and raising her family out of poverty.

Does Buran sound at all like Mulan to you? And I mean the story, not just the name, which we’ll assume is coincidence. Also, can you guess that Buran makes a very close male friend (who happens to be a prince) with whom she begins to fall in love? Yes, the prince even begins to suspect – hope? – that Buran (aka Nasir) is actually a woman, and tries several tests to find out. Of course, since the last test involves a public bath, Buran has no choice but to leave the city with all her riches, travelling far and wide in an effort to exact revenge on her male cousins. When did they come back in the story, you ask? No one is really sure. But they do turn up, and are humiliated when Buran more or less turns down their marriage proposals.

Anyway, there is a happy ending (did you expect anything else?) in which Buran and her prince are reunited, this time as a man and woman who are free to love each other. How predictable.

My two biggest complaints: first of all, I may not be much of a writer, but I can recognize good writing. I found none here. The writers started the book with the sort of flowy language one would expect from a Persian-y feeling story, but quickly deteriorated into “I’m coming, Father,” or “My heart felt sick with worry” (not actual quotes). Secondly, there was way too much about the prince’s concubines. Although the story is written at the level of ten or eleven year olds, there was really no reason to mention the prince calling for the girl who “pleased him best.” Seriously!

You may be wondering why I read it at all. Well, I was at Krista’s house with nothing to do for an hour and a half, and I couldn’t find the tv remote. (Hey! I don’t watch tv at home, it’s fair!)

My rating: skip it.

 

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