In the Meadow of Fantasies

h1 November 18th, 2021 by jules

(Click cover to enlarge)


I normally open posts with art, but given that this is one of my favorite picture-book covers of the year, I kick off this post with the cover. (Don’t worry. There are spreads below!)

Hadi Mohammadi’s evocatively named In the Meadow of Fantasies (Elsewhere Editions, November 2021), illustrated by Nooshin Safkhoo and translated from the Persian by Sara Khalili, was originally published in Iran in 2017 and is now on shelves here in the U.S. It tells a tender and beguiling story about a child’s imagination and is a story of generosity: “Not a folktale, not a poem, not a dream,” writes the Publishers Weekly review, “but some whirling mixture of the three, this lulling recitation by Iranian author Mohammadi affirms generosity as a natural impulse.”

On the book’s first spread, we see a girl lying in bed; she wears leg braces, and near the bed is a wheelchair. The girl stares at a mobile of horses that hangs above her bed, but clearly she sees more in her mind’s eye: “The young girl murmured as she gazed at the meadow through the window of her fantasies,” we read. As she imagines it, the horses’ coats are various colors, but the seventh horse is devoid of color. We see the girl ride atop the grey horse, as all but the seventh one fly through the air. Since the seventh horse has no color, the other horses give a “patch of their color” to it — and now it is “of every color.”

And so it goes. We read about the horses’ various homes; dreams, fantasies, and flights of fancy; and foals. Each time we read that the seventh horse lacks these things — though the seventh horse does have a foal; it’s just not as old as the others (it’s a “newborn”) — and each time the horses give of themselves so that the seventh horse isn’t left lacking. In the end, we see the seventh horse, now of seven colors, stay with the girl: “Shall we together write the story of Seven Night sand Seven Moons?” the girl asks her friend.

Safakhoo’s delicate, fine-lined drawings on a limited palette of muted colors showcase fantastical, rather spellbinding scenarios, often with an understated humor — all the horses bathing in a giant tub, for one, or the fantasies of the horses. (The horse that dreams of a “tree that cast the broadest shade” has massive branches springing forth from its head.) There is an underlying joy that permeates the story, as we see the girl — and it’s understood that she’s not able to get about on her own two feet — run and engage in imaginative play with the seven horses. She, in essence, creates her own agency with her imagination.

These elegant, thought-provoking series of images will stay with you. Here are some spreads. …


“The seven horses were and were not of seven colors. The first horse was white.
The second horse was black. The third horse was red. The fourth horse was yellow.
The fifth horse was grey. The sixth horse was brown.
But the seventh horse had no color at all.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“The other horses each gave a patch of their color to the colorless horse.
Now the seventh horse was of every color.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“They were seven horses that had and did not have seven dreams and fantasies. …”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“The other horses celebrated the birth of the newborn foal. An celebration with songs
of moonlight and blossoms, of milk for the newborn to suckle and grow.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“The time had come for the horses to return. …”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


* * * * * * *

IN THE MEADOW OF FANTASIES. Originally published by The Institute for Research on the History of Children’s Literature, Tehran, Iran, in 2017. Copyright text © Hadi Mohammadi, 2018. Copyright illustrations © Nooshin Safakhoo, 2014. English language translation © Sara Khalili, 2021. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Elsewhere Editions, New York.

One comment to “In the Meadow of Fantasies

  1. Oh what a gorgeous book! Love the story, the text and the illustrations so much. This is one that I’m going to be getting multiple copies of.

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