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Dzil-u-Dzar Publications Introduces Mur-Mur Toto in Its First Children’s Book Adventure

Los Angeles, November 3, 2010—Can a household cat set out from Los Angeles across the oceans and seas to Lake Van to lay claim to his promised bride, “the queen of cats,” and bring her home? It may defy the strictures of the human narrator’s three-dimensional world, and yet that is exactly the space-defying feat that Mur-Mur Toto pulls off on the vibrant two-dimensional pages of Alidz Agbabian’s latest children’s book, “Mur-Mur Toto Yev Vana Harsig, (Mur-Mur Toto and the Little Bride of Van).”

With the story by Agbabian and illustrations throughout by her Paris-based sister, author and illustrator of children’s books Anahid Sarkissian, this latest book from Dzil-u-Dzar Publications introduces Mur-Mur Toto, a rescued cat that is brought to the narrator’s household, only to sulk and brood (thus its nickname) and takes “his” time in adapting to the new surroundings. Once it finally gets his voice, Toto is quick to assert his “beastieness” by threats of pointed teeth and claws and unapologetically claiming common breed with lions and tigers. After all, Armenian mythology claims that when the first lion sneezed, little cats burst out of its nostrils. Soon Toto is determined to fulfill his destiny and go fetch his awaiting bride “with fur as luminously white as Mount Sipan” and who inhabits the shores of Lake Van. The book closes with framed “photos” of bride and groom as well as the ensuing litter.

“In real life, cats do travel long distances to find their loved ones,” says Agbabian. “As a teenager I had rescued a cat which for many years became a member of our family. It often sat in front of my father listening to him play the flute. My father used to say ‘I wish I could get into the brain of this creature for a couple of minutes and see the world through its eyes and thoughts.’”

Agbabian avows that her father’s wish, her own dreams and her love for the beauty for Lake Van intermingle in this story. “The lake’s natural beauty, the mountains surrounding it and the cultural tug of that historic area have lived in my visions, especially after my two visits to the area.”

Mur-Mur Toto’s adventures on the shores of the fabled lake is sure to bring a smile on the face of any child who shares a roof with a voiceless and seemingly humdrum pet cat. Felines come in all colors and sizes, but there is only one Toto—“His fur soft and gray, his belly and paws white, eyes green, and a long tail that is always up and down or left and right.” While the story is about the dream of a household cat to which anybody can relate, the imagery and language patterns from Armenian mythology give the narration a uniquely Armenian character.

The book for children ages 5 and up provides opportunities for parents to create voices and act out the story to involve their children into the tale and make reading enjoyable for them. The beautifully rendered illustrations—intermingled with the photo of glistening waters of Lake Van— visually enhance the story. While the narrative, written in Western Armenian, is engaging and entertaining, it also introduces the child to Armenian wedding customs and the geography of Lake Van and Aghtamar as well as the history of the land considered to be the cradle of Armenian culture.

This imaginative and entertaining book is priced at $15.00 and available at Armenian bookstores throughout the United States, Canada and France as well as directly from the publisher’s website. It is handsomely printed on 24 full-color pages with laminated soft cover. The color pocket of the inside back cover holds a bonus surprise—an eight-panel, four-color glossy postcard with snapshots of Toto, the Bride from Van as well as stunning photographs of Lake Van, Isle of Aghtamar, Sourp Khatch church, Mount Sipan and the ruins of the Urartian castle. The insert also extends the story into various experiences for family and classroom execution through traditional Armenian folk games.

Alidz Agbabian is a storyteller and children’s book author who specializes in Armenian and Middle Eastern oral traditions, bringing folk tales, myths, songs and legends to many communities nationwide and around the world. Based in Los Angeles, Agbabian offers classroom, library and museum presentations, residencies and teachers’ workshops, and develops special theme presentations for schools, exhibits, conventions and festivals. As an author of children’s books, she has established Dzil-u-Dzar Publications, which for the past 15 years has introduced high-quality, bilingual story books from the Armenian tradition to readers of all ages.

Publication Date: September 2010
Publisher: Dzil-u-Dzar Publications
Language: Western Armenian
Ages: 5 and up
Format: Laminated soft cover
ISBN 978-1-4507-0548-6
Pages: 24
Size: 8.5” x 10”
Price: $15.00

More information is available at www.dziludzar.com.