Thursday, August 8, 2019

Review - Brave with Beauty: A Story of Afghanistan

Brave with Beauty: A Story of Afghanistan
by Maxine Rose Schur
illustrated by Patricia Grush, Robin DeWitt & Golsa Yaghoobi
Date: 2019
Publisher: Yali Publishing LLC
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 44
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

This is the extraordinary story of Queen Goharshad, a 15th century monarch, who many historians now believe was the most powerful woman in world history. Ruling from the Timurid artistic and cultural center of Herat in western Afghanistan, Queen Goharshad ushered in a remarkable, rare period when poetry, music, calligraphy, painting and the sciences flourished as never before. A poet and an architect, she designed a complex of buildings that were considered to be some of the most beautiful structures ever built on earth.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

How many picture books are there about 15th-century women? Not many, I'd imagine. Even rarer are books about women from this particular part of the world. Brave with Beauty tells the story of Goharshad, who grew up to become a queen and a patron of the arts.

The narrative is fairly strong here, painting the character of Goharshad with lovely words. There are a few punctuation typos, but nothing too glaring. The pictures are good, for the most part (although there are some small perspective issues that don't look quite right); they've lively and colourful and really create the historical setting.

Goharshad is an interesting character, and not what one might expect from a woman of this time period. She comes across as very forward-thinking, and even though she lived in a patriarchal society, she was still highly respected.

The ending of the book is terribly sad, showing the almost apocalyptic destruction of Goharshad's legacy. Given this, it's odd that her manner of death (she was executed) is glossed over. The book makes it seem like she simply died of old age. While the decision to leave out her manner of death may have been because of the target audience, it doesn't make a lot of sense when the rest of the ending is so depressing; disclosing the true manner of her demise could've provided some interesting jumping-off points for discussions about women's roles in the past, especially when it came to ruling kingdoms and empires.

Overall, though, this is an appealing picture book about a strong woman. I'd like to see more books in this vein, showing today's girls that, even in times when women had even fewer options than they do now, they could still make their mark on the world.

Thank you to NetGalley and Yali Publishing LLC for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.5 out of 5

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