Saturday, 4 July 2015

Tiny Owl picture books from Iran, by Pippa Goodhart

Early in 2013 I received an email out of the blue, asking me if I would be interested in doing some editing work on picture book texts for a new publisher.  It turned out to be an exciting opportunity, and a chance to do rather more than simply editing.  I reworked texts which had been translated into English from their original Persian.  

These are important books, several of them major prize winning ones, but which haven’t appeared in the British book market before. 

Iranian Delaram Ghanimifard set up the Tiny Owl publishing house in London with her husband -  The first of Tiny Owl’s books are now published, and getting excellent reviews.

I want to show off some of the artwork to you.  You’ll see it’s refreshingly different from the current trends in British illustration.  The variety here demonstrates how illustrative art is clearly flourishing in Iran.  Take a look!


Little Black Fish is perhaps the odd one out in this group of books in that it isn’t aimed just at children.  It has quite a long text, and the story of the determined little fish that wants to see the world beyond its home pool is an allegory for the Iranian nation at times when it has been dangerous to make a stand for different ideas.  This story was written in 1968 by Samad Behrangi, and his death, rumoured to have been ordered by the Iranian Government, has given him, and this story, legendary status.  The pictures are by Farshid Mesghali.
Do take a look look on the Tiny Owl website to see more about these books, and about them as publishers.


  1. Oh they are beautiful! I am off up the library immediately to request them. Congrats on the great reviews.

  2. These look stunning. Really interesting and ravishingly lovely work. Well done for helping to bring them to us.

  3. These look amazing! Will try to get some ` thank you, Pippa!

  4. Absolutely fascinating. Thank you.

  5. How interesting, Pippa. Just looked them up. The illustrations in the mouse and fish books particularly appeal to me and now I have to decide which one I'll have. The story behind Little Black Fish might be the deciding factor. By the way, how do women fare in these stories? Are their strong female characters?

    1. The story of The Parrot And The Merchant has a woman as the merchant travelling to exotic places. And The Clever Mouse is a very funny story of a less appealing bride being taken on by a groom who changes his mind, but then changes his mind back again, so the funny pair end up happily together!

  6. Lovely illustrations,
    I think they are not too far away from some of the more design led styles of illustration around at the moment, so should well. More strength to their elbow, or whatever an equivalent Iranian saying might be.

  7. Thank you all for your enthusiastic comments.

  8. From the moment I heard about the Little Owl on Facebook, I loved it. What a subtle, subversive and creative way of over-riding politics and prejudice (yawn!) And ancient Persia - how romantic can that get?