“In the Meadow of Fantasies” by Hadi Mohammadi


From her bed, a young girl gazes up at a mobile of seven spinning horses. She begins to imagine:


The young girl murmured
as she gazed at the meadow
through the window of her fantasies.


The horses come alive and soon the girl departs her room, leaving behind her pink bed and a room filled with leafy plants, for an adventure with the seven horses. In the Meadow of Fantasies by Hadi Mohammadi and translated from the Persian by Sara Khalili tells the story of the girl’s dreams brought to life.

While the first five horses are easily understood, the seventh horse is without color, home, family or dreams. But whatever the seventh horse lacks is soon filled by the other horses.


The other horses each gave part of their home to the seventh horse.
Now the seventh horse had a home everywhere.


There’s a rhythmic quality to the prose, a musicality that enchants:


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.


And while it is not uncommon for children’s books to feature multiples of animals and to count up or down or to repeat numerical order, it is less common for there to be this spirit of giving and care. With each page, the six horses offer the seventh a part of themselves; that seventh horse then shares what it has been given with the girl.


In the Meadow of Fantasies, Hadi Mohammadi, Nooshin Safakhoo (illus), Sara Khalili (trans) (Elsewhere Editions, November 2021)
In the Meadow of Fantasies, Hadi Mohammadi, Nooshin Safakhoo (illus), Sara Khalili (trans) (Elsewhere Editions, November 2021)

First published in Persian in 2017, the gentleness and dreaminess of the prose is matched by the illustrations by Nooshin Safahkoo, who, like Mohammadi, lives in Iran. Safahkoo’s drawings are full of sharp details, offering young readers, for example, what it might look like for a horse to imagine being the fastest on the planet, or for a horse with no colors to then be offered parts of seven colors.

Safahkoo’s detailed work is also critical for conveying the protagonist’s physical disability, which is not mentioned in the text and is, instead, shown with the illustration of a wheelchair off to the side of the page on one of the opening pages. Characters with disabilities are rare in children’s books and even rarer is a character with a disability who gets to be a character first, rather than serving as a teachable moment or discussion point for inclusion and diversity. To have the opportunity to read an engaging and enchanting story with a protagonist as one with a disability—not to mention, a story in translation—is a joy.

Melanie Ho is the author of Journey to the West: He Hui, a Chinese Soprano in the World of Italian Opera.