What Shape is an Elephant?
Jalaluddin Rumi
Feeroozeh Golmohammadi
age group: 
5+ yrs
Number of pages: 
value education unity in diversity Rumi elephants
picture book, fiction


What shape is an elephant? is a delightful story by Rumi, a 13th century Persian sufi poet. A simple story with a deeper message, this book makes us understand the complexities of life and conveys the message that if we look only at the parts, we forget to see the whole picture. Just as, different personalities go to make a family, different kinds of flora and fauna make for a sustainable forest, and different cultures and religions constitute a nation.

The text is simple and each page contains just a few lines, making the reader introspect each word and enjoy the illustrations. The deeper meaning is hidden in lucid text, “When we look only at what we can touch, it is as small as the palm of our hand,” and gives you a feeling of having discovered something when you unravel it.

The illustrations by Feerozeh Golmohammmadi, an award winning Iranian exponent of Persian miniature art, are exquisite right down to the detailing on the skirts of the women.

The lift-the-flap picture would enthrall any reader as it unfolds.

This universal story can be used for class discussions by teachers for Indian kids and others to help them understand that often what we percieve as our differences is only our different ways of looking at one and the same truth.

A great book to teach the motto that In diversity is unity!


Reviewed by Shamim Padamsee