Shahrzad and the Angry King

Shahrzad and the Angry King
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

A rebel dreamer of a girl daydreams about her role in making the world a better place--and since dreams bleed into reality, maybe she really does.  Shahrzad and the Angry King is a contemporary reimagining of the Scheherazade tale, starring scooter-riding, story-loving Shahrzad.

Shahrzad loves stories and looks for them everywhere. When she meets a boy and asks him to tell her his story, he recounts fleeing a country that was peaceful and happy, until its grieving king grew angry and cruel. Shahrzad can't forget the boy and his story, and so, when she sees a toy airplane in a store, she imagines herself zooming off to the boy's home country, where she confronts the king, to make him reflect on the kind of leader he really wants to be. Like Scheherazade, she tells the king story after story, but this time not to save her own life, but those of the king's people and his own.

Because Shahrzad knows the power of the creative imagination and that the stories we tell and the words we use shape our very existence. We live and die by the sword? Not exactly, says Shahrzad. We live or die by the stories we tell and how we see, frame, and word the world.

Brought to life by Iranian artist Nahid Kazemi, this bold heroine reminds us of how powerfully intertwined reality is with the stories we tell.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review

Clever construction and intertextual inspirations weave a thought-provoking homage to a fabled heroine and master storyteller. (Picture book. 5-8).

Copyright 2021 Kirkus Reviews, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 3-5--Kazemi's version of the legendary tale of Sheherazade starts with a girl who loves stories. In a modern setting, Shahrzad, with fuzzy black cropped hair and caterpillar-like black eyebrows against pale skin, listens for stories everywhere and then recounts them to others. When she hears about an angry king who creates cruel laws, she steps in. Through daily doses of storytelling, each one building on the last, she is able to make the king become kind, with her last story telling him of himself, the grief for his late wife that has made him mean, and his reform. Other than Shahrzad 's name, there are few clues for readers unfamiliar with the original, but one of them may send some to the source: "One thousand and one nights passed. Or maybe it was just ten, or a hundred, or a hundred and one." Thus readers are invited into the secret, that this tale, and all the stories of the Arabian nights, here flattened into a child's whimsical love of storytelling, have lessons for us all. Although readers are left wondering what was Shahrzad's dream, and what was real, this sweet book captures the power of storytelling and the fun of creative imagination. Pastel illustrations create a calming sense at times and dynamism in other scenes. The vocabulary, used lyrically, will challenge some in the picture book set. VERDICT This is a clever tale that uses storytelling to show how people can change, but with its length and advanced word choices may not suit everyone.--Tracey Hodges, Univ. of Alabama, Northport, AL

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

In this Scheherazade variation, its storyteller heroine becomes a modern child: light-skinned Shahrzad, an inveterate eavesdropper who loves stories, finding them "in peoples' faces and gestures, in shops and cafes, and throughout the city's streets" as well as on public transit. "She thought hard about each story she heard, and what it might mean, no matter where she was" (using the toilet and the shower, for example), and both regales others with and documents the tales. When a light-skinned boy at a park tells Shahrzad that he and his family have had to leave their country because their grief-stricken king passed laws that make life unbearable, Shahrzad imagines herself flying in a toy plane straight to the palace to confront the monarch. Art by author-illustrator Kazemi (The Old Woman) appears scribbly and informally stylized, with subtly expressive characters and spreads that are alive with texture and color. As Shahrzad dazzles the king day after day with tales that prod him to consider the consequences of his actions, Kazemi illuminates the storyteller's gift (and the book's own): the ability to juggle different points of view, and to use stories as visions for change. Ages 7-up. (Jan.)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes


Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
January 20, 2022

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