Four Children, a Ticking Clock, An Umbrella with White Butterflies: What if we are a web?

By Terry Farish

With these words maybe, just possibly, a sequence of events might be in play to bring a certain book from Iran to more readers of the world. A certain sequence of events – to a ticking clock – unfold just that way in the picture book, An Umbrella With White Butterflies, this certain book by Farhad Hassanzadeh, illustrated by Ghazaleh Bigdelou.

Today as I write this, it’s World Read Aloud Day, a celebration of reading with children all over the world. This book of interconnection, An Umbrella with White Butterflies, might be being read in Iran, China, Korea, and Spain, but it isn’t published in English yet. Tuti Books at Fatemi Publishing in Tehran has sent me a PDF of the book in English translated by Caroline Croskery. Thank you, Tuti Books! So now I can tell you more about the book, and maybe be part of a web that leads to this beautiful book coming in English for next World Read Aloud Day.

Children, unknown to each other, are each a player in a sequence of events that help each of them achieve what they most want as the clock approaches the new year. The story begins in a barber shop where a boy, Ardalan, needs a hair cut, fast! “But the barber works on his own time.” Of course. This story turns on time. And on Ghazaleh Bigdelou’s threads through the story – the cat, the butterfly, the bowls of little orange goldfish for new year, the umbrella. The boy Ardalan has to wait!

Then comes Atousa, in tears, waiting for her dress from the dressmaker. She has waited so long. Then come Maryam and Ali, waiting to sell their flowers in the market for the new year. At a certain moment, they happen upon Atousa, still waiting for her dress.

Ali helps Atousa. Atousa gets her dress. The clock is ticking for the dressmaker who sends Atousa to the barber to retrieve her husband…Who was sitting in the barber’s chair and must leave, fast! The boy, Ardalan, gets his turn before the clock strikes the new year.

The children, strangers to one another, are now wild with their own excitement for the new year. A moment in time, a couple of words exchanged, an umbrella with white butterflies, this is a book about how everything we do touches another.

Hassanzadeh was shortlisted for the 2020 Hans Christian Andersen Award for the life-time work of a children’s book writer. One of the top five children’s book writers in the world.

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