The Conference of the Birds (ISBN 978-1-937786-02-1) by Alexis York Lumbard and Demi on

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Home > Children's Books > The Conference of the Birds

cover of Conference of the Birds

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The Conference of the Birds
retold by: Alexis York Lumbard
illustrated by: Demi
Subject(s): Age(s) / Grade level  / Lexile:

Legends, Myths, and Fables: Early Reader

6-9 / 3-4 / Lexile measure: 770L

Format: Size / page count:


11" × 10" / 44 pages

ISBN: Date available:


September 2012



The famous children’s book author and illustrator Tomie dePaola wrote to author Alexis York Lumbard about this book, on which she had collaborated with the illustrator Demi, saying, “Congratulations on a lovely book. You [both] have made a wonderful contribution to the world of children’s literature…” Many others are finding the same thing: this magical adventure of some very imperfect birds is a special experience for readers of any age.

In simple poetry and striking illustrations, the story follows the duck, the parrot, the owl, the finch, and others, as they fly behind the wise hoopoe bird, constantly learning to confront their fears and inner weaknesses in order to reach the distant mountain where they will find their new King. Children and adults alike will relate to this inspiring tale about overcoming one’s faults and practicing such virtues as humility, patience, detachment from worldly goods, and courage.

Lavishly illustrated by award-winning illustrator, Demi, and based on an 800-year-old classical tale by the poet Attar, The Conference of the Birds will delight children and provide parents with a wonderful tool for discussing moral and spiritual development with young readers.


  • Finalist in the “Children's Picture Book: Hardcover Fiction” category of The USA “Best Books 2012” Awards, sponsored by USA Book News
  • Finalist in the “Best New Children's Picture Book” category of The USA “Best Books 2012” Awards
  • Finalist in the “Best Interior Design” category of The USA “Best Books 2012” Awards
  • Finalist in the “Picture Books” category of the Foreword Magazine 2012 Book of the Year awards
  • Silver Midwest Book Award for “Illustration: Graphic”
  • Silver Midwest Book Award for “Interior Layout”

Videos Related to the Book

Watch the video below to get a visual summary of the pages in The Conference of the Birds. Viewers will quickly see how beautiful the illustrations are and how the book is laid out. The entire video is only about a minute long.


  • Children will enjoy a coloring page of the Hoopoe, the central character in the book. There is a picture of the Hoopoe on the cover, too, for ideas on how to color it in. Click here for this 120KB file in jpg format in a new file or window, which can be printed out for children to work on.
  • The website “Jump into a Book” has a long page on Alexis York Lumbard’s book Conference of the Birds. The page has several suggested activities based on the book, including how to make stick puppets and “condition of the heart” cut-outs along with a discussion guide. The Jump into a Book page also has many sections that discuss elements of the book in greater depth. To go to this wonderful Jump into a Book page in a new browser or window, click here!


“…This poetic tale follows a variety of birds in their journey across the ocean to the island of their King. Their wise hoopoe guide encourages them to be patient, humble, and brave as they conquer their faults and overcome fears during their flight. The bronze tones and bold colors of the lavish birds are reminiscent of Persian artwork. A great spiritual bedtime story.”
ForeWord Reviews, taken from a description of staff member choices of favorite books for the week
The Conference of the Birds is an illuminated retelling of a work titled Mantiq al-Tayr, by a 12th-century Persian poet named Farid aI-Din Attar. Beautifully illustrated with fabulous artistic renditions of birds done in a celestial style that draws from Chinese, Japanese, and Persian traditions, The Conference of the Birds is a sacred story about the search for enlightenment of the soul, told in effortlessly flowing verse. The fabulously beautiful, enlightened hoopoe addresses his fellow birds, exhorting them to seek to advance to the mystical island home of King Simorgh the wise. Although the story has many obvious Judeo-Christian parallels, it is indeed about the quest for spiritual enlightenment, from the Sufi tradition. Masterfully translated, retold, and illustrated, the story’s appeal is both to the naive and to the advanced mind. Children will grasp some of the essential message of hope in overcoming pride, fear, impatience, greed, and sloth in the ever-demanding search for the ultimate enlightenment of the great King. Each bird has a special obstacle to surpass in their flight. The dazzling and enigmatic ending adds to the mystic and satisfying appeal of the entire story. The Conference of the Birds is a beautiful sacred text, retold for the enjoyment and enlightenment of not only children, but everyone.”
Children’s Bookwatch, a publication of The Midwest Book Review
“Lumbard’s debut picture book retells for a young audience the most famous work by the 12th-century Persian poet Farid al-Din Attar about a pilgrimage taken by birds to meet ‘King Simorgh the Wise.’ Sorrowing because they lack kingly guidance, the birds gather together, receive help from the inspired hoopoe, and depart on their quest. Along the way, individual birds confront spiritual obstacles: the parrot’s heavy jewelry weighs her down; the finch fears the storm; the hawk, seeking to arrive first, becomes lost. Prose narration alternates with the hoopoe’s rhymed speeches of encouragement, which contain a recurring refrain: ‘So do not let this impatience/ Destroy this golden chance./ Release its hold upon you now,/ And to your King advance!’ Set against white full-spread backdrops, red-bordered gilt frames decorated with small birds contain Demi’s uncluttered paintings featuring brightly colored, meticulously rendered birds against pale or royal blue watercolor washes. A foreword by scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr provides insight into Sufi poetry and bird symbolism in diverse cultures. Both prose and illustrations combine simplicity and elegance, ably rendering this classic tale for a new generation. Ages 4–8.”
Publisher’s Weekly
“This laudable attempt to retell the gist of a 12th-century poem of over 4,000 verses may be of interest to religious educators and parents who want to expose young people to varied spiritual values.

“Attar’s Mantiq al-Tayr has been discussed throughout the centuries, and children and adults in Iran and other Muslim countries have been exposed to its ideas in many different versions. Here, the foreword by Seyyed Hossein Nasr provides background information on the poem, with its Sufi, Islamic and Zoroastrian elements. In the body of the text, rhyming couplets alternate with prose that summarizes the action cut from the original as the birds take on human personality traits. The hoopoe, resplendent in her red head feathers with black tips undertakes the role of leader and urges the birds to travel together to find their king. Along the way, different birds despair and try to leave the pilgrimage, but they find the strength to continue as the hoopoe helps each one to overcome its particular limitations. The duck is lazy, the parrot has too much finery weighing her down, and the finch is fearful, but all stay faithful to the search, which ultimately leads to great enlightenment. Demi’s delicate watercolor-and–mixed-media illustrations, each bordered with a frieze of multiple bird images in every position of flight, suit the text admirably.…”
Kirkus Reviews

“A flock of birds, of many kinds and colors, gathered on a dark, moonless night. They were steeped in sorrow. They had no king to give them wisdom or keep the peace or make sure laws were upheld. A strange, beautiful bird, a hoopoe, arrives that has black-tipped feathers and a sacred prayer on her beak. She speaks beautifully and brings the birds a message of hope, telling them of a king who waits for them. She tells them the journey is long and arduous, but well worth the trouble. The duck doesn’t want to leave the comfort and ease of his pond, but the hoopoe convinces him his laziness will keep him from something splendid. As the trip goes on the parrot tires, weighed down with gold and jewels. The hoopoe convinces the parrot to give up worldly riches for something greater. One or another of the birds has other troubles along the way, but the hoopoe brings them all to the conclusion of their journey.

“Alexis York Lumbard has beautifully retold this ancient story of Persia in a combination of prose and poetry. Illustrator Demi has filled the pages with opulent, jewel-toned drawings and designs.”
Sacramento/San Francisco Book Review
The Conference of the Birds is beautifully illustrated, and will be a wonderful book to read together with fourth graders on up. Some of the younger students may not be able to read it by themselves, but it will be a perfect lead-in for a discussion of inner core self-esteem values we each face. Questions such as: ‘Am I pretty enough?’ or ‘Am I important enough?’ can become the gateway to conversations about what is important in life. The story can be used to encourage those who need a little extra confidence as they begin their individual journeys attempting to figure out how they feel about themselves. This book would help to encourage reading skills, as the child will enjoy trying to comprehend the drawings and the story.

“This book can also be used to relate to many different religions as the basic truths here are important to all peoples. The book is a rewrite of a Persian poem written by Farid ud-Din in the 12th century, and is an analogy of man’s spiritual search for God. The original poem is approximately 4500 lines.

“Demi’s vivid paintings will catch any youngster’s eye, displaying each birds ego and personality, the detail will hold their attention as they follow the trail to the King. There are so many beautiful birds to identify. The ending will be a pleasant surprise, as they learn, along with the birds, where the King resides.”
Carole Robishaw, from a review on the website 3rd Grade Reading (click here to read the entire review)

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