This beautifully illustrated imaginative story focuses on Persian culture and a grandfather-granddaughter relationship. I have no idea if the characters, author, or illustrator identify as Muslim, the scarf on the grandma and the salaam greetings might just be cultural, but Muslim kids will see themselves in those words and images and thus I am reviewing the book. Young Miriam spends a week with her grandparents, Babajoon and Mamanjoon, every summer, and on this trip, she has reason to believe her grandpa is a pirate. The progression of Babajoon sharing his culture with his granddaughter who has misread the signs is silly, but honestly also a little sad. It seems she is very unaware of her family’s culture, not just generational details, but basics. The story itself is for kids, but I think parents will find a deeper message in the importance of maintaining cultural ties and familiarity no matter where our children are raised.
Miriam loves her week every summer with her grandparents, it is a magical adventure spending time with them at their tea shop. One day Miriam and her Babajoon head out for rocket pops and a mysterious gold coin falls out of her grandpa’s pocket. As they enjoy their popsicles, Babajoon starts singing with a parrot, and he has a secret language with an old friend before crystals are revealed, the only possible connection for the young girl, is that her grandfather is a pirate.
Babajoon reveals the cultural context of all the days adventures tying them back to his childhood in Iran. He encourages her to ask questions, and Miriam worries that she isn’t like her beloved Babajoon. His reassures her that they are alike and that they will teach each other, leaves the book with both appreciation and hope and a whole lot of love from a little girl to her family and culture.
There is a bit of a continuity issue for me as the little girl is excited her grandfather is a pirate, and then at the end, glad he isn’t. Also that she doesn’t know what Farsi sounds like or where her grandfather is from seems a little bit of a stretch as she herself calls them Babajoon and Mamajoon and says salaam to them. They also own a Persian tea shop called Aziz and the sign board is written in English and Farsi. If the little girl is aware enough and old enough to piece together the clues to discern that he is a pirate, clearly she recognizes the difference in the titles, foods, and clothing her grandparents wear to the larger society. I know, I’m being picky, but it took me a few readings to get past all that, and appreciate the story for what it is, and how beneficial it really can be to encourage children to ask about their family heritage and traditions.
The 40 page horizontal hardback book is beautiful to share in groups or one-on-one. The illustrations are enjoyable, and the pirate aspect will make this book a frequently requested read. You can preorder your copy here, after March 28, 2023 you can still purchase through that link.