Sona lives in a home with lots of family members and others who stop by regularly. There is her mother and father, Thatha, her grandfather, Paatti, her grandmother, and The President who lives in the neighborhood. There is also Elephant, her best friend, and a toy she has had since she was tiny. When Amma, Sona’s mother, tells her that she is expecting a new baby, Sona isn’t so sure that it’s good news. She will have to share her room and her things with the new baby. Sona wants badly to be the best big sister ever, but sometimes her emotions get in the way. She has a chance to help pick the perfect name for the new baby, but she may just wait too long in the end.
Perfectly pitched for young readers, this early chapter book is a glimpse of life in India with rickshaws to get to school, jasmine in the garden, and pooris for a snack. Sona’s reaction to a new baby is just right, an honest mixture of wanting to participate and also resenting what she may lose too. The extended family plays a large part in giving Sona both the attention and the space she needs to process her feelings without making her ashamed along the way.
The illustrations add to the depiction of life in India, capturing the connection of the family members, shared meals, and crowded streets. The images are full of warmth and love.
A look at the emotions of a new baby combined with a visit to India. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Part of the Citizen Kid collection, this nonfiction picture book explore the story of how one village in India came to celebrate the birth of girls. Sundar grew up walking with his mother to get water through the heat. until she is killed from a snake bite. After this, Sundar takes comfort in hugging trees, thinking of his mother. Sundar grew up and taught his children to love nature as much as he does. He works for a mining company and grows so worried about what they are doing to the local environment and their unwillingness to plant trees to help that he leaves his job. He runs for election and becomes the head of the village. When his daughter dies, he plants trees in her memory. He has an idea, declaring that every girl born in the village will be welcomed by the planting of 111 trees. Sundar is mocked for this idea that goes against customs, but he does not give up. He steadily speaks with people, convincing them of the impact they could have on the local environment by planting these trees. As the trees grow, life in the village changes. Now the women don’t have to walk long distances to get water, the fruit of the trees help feed the children and families, and girls can go to school with the boys as the gender inequality is overturned.
Singh builds her story with care, showing Sundar’s childhood with his mother and then his loss of her as the deep inspiration for his idea. She demonstrates how one man’s quest to fix the environment can make an enormous difference not just for him but for an entire community, the future of the girls that grow up there, and the quality of life for all. Singh does not lecture, instead showing how resilience and perseverance can eventually pay off. The Author’s Note at the end of the book offers more information on Sundar and the other customs that he has ended, including child marriage.
The illustrations show the changing landscape as the trees are planted. From a desert-like wasteland, the steady increase in trees transforms the landscape and the pages to lush green. The images focus on the interplay between human and nature, showing a community that even when skeptical continued to listen.
An inspiring picture book that tells the true story of one man’s quest to bring back trees and stop gender inequality. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Kids Can Press.
In India, two families must respond to the weather they are experiencing. One nomadic family, lives in the desert and must move in search of water. The other family, who live in a village, are experiencing a monsoon and the flooding it brings. Both families are multi-generational, both have children learning things, helping out and packing up. One family deals with blowing sand and sandstorms while the other has leaking roofs and puddles on the floor. Soon both start traveling in search of safety, one on camels and the other in a boat. Together, they reach the same mountain where they both find safety as well as each other.
In her author’s note, Dairman speaks about the Rabari people who inspired her families in the picture book. She captures their changing lifestyle from purely nomadic life to moving into villages. She also shows how weather can be threatening for both lifestyles. The writing is simple and just right for the smallest of children. Throughout the book, there are opposites in the two lifestyles, but there are some things that are quite similar.
The illustrations in this picture book are based on the illustrator’s personal experience in visiting a Rabari settlement. The detailed textiles fill the pages with color and pattern. Meanwhile the contrast of the warm golds of the desert and the cool blues of the monsoon work particularly well as they cross the pages. It’s a very effective way to view the two ways of life.
A glimpse of India’s nomadic people allows us all to see how weather impacts lives. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
This is the story of an amazing mathematical genius who was born in India in 1887. He sees math everywhere, contemplating what small and big actually meant. When he started school, the teacher was not interested in his questions, so Ramanujan got bored and tried to sneak away to think his own thoughts. He wondered about the infinity possible in ordinary objects like mango that can be sliced again and again. Doing sums at school, he figured out the sums inside the sums they were doing, once again breaking things down. As he grows up, he reinvents mathematics, working from college textbooks and solving all of the problems. Still, he is just an unknown person in India, how can he find someone who understands what he is doing?
The joy of discovering Ramanujan’s math is that even for children or those who are not mathematically inclined, his theories resonate and encourage everyone to start thinking beyond the strictness of school math. Alznauer pays homage to this great genius, showing how he grew up, how he thought and how he was misunderstood for a very long time until being discovered by mathematicians in England.
The art is done in ink that flows at times like watercolors. Miyares captures the glow of invention, the heat of imagination in his illustrations. He also shows the solitude of Ramanujan in a captivating way.
Rich and fascinating, this picture book biography opens new worlds of mathematics to its readers. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
A nonfiction picture book look at the incredible Rock Garden of Chandigarh. Chand grew up happily in a small village in the Punjab region of India. He grew up there, hearing stories and building palaces on the sand near the river. As an adult, he became a farmer but everything changed when the partition of India happened in 1947. Forced from his home and into a city, Chand struggled to find the beauty he had grown up with. He finally discovered it in the jungle along the city’s edge. There he cut back the vegetation and built himself a hut. He started gathering items and bringing them into the jungle. Then he started building a secret kingdom, one that was undiscovered by anyone else for fifteen years. When the officials wanted it destroyed, the local community rose up to protect this outsider’s art.
Rosenstock manages to keep the complicated story of the partition of India to a scale that allows young readers to understand its impact on Chand, but also not get caught in the political details. She cleverly uses repetition of themes in the book, creating a feel of a traditional tale that suits this subject perfectly. She also shows the care and attention to detail that Chand demonstrated in his quiet work. There is a sense of awe around both his skill and his dedication to his vision.
Nivola’s art is fine-lined and marvelously detailed. From the lush jungle setting to the various figures he created. It is impressive that when the pages unfold to show photographs of the actual Rock Garden, there is no jarring moving from illustration to image. It flows naturally and yet allows the full images to amaze too.
A look at an outsider artist who created a world all his own. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Mina loves to play soccer outside in the sunshine. But it’s now monsoon season and that means a lot of days filled with rain. Her mother won’t let her play soccer in the rain since she might catch a cold. But Mina knows that her mother doesn’t understand the joy of playing soccer or scoring a goal. Mina tries a series of things to drive the rain away, but none of them work. When the milk man explains to her why the rain is so important for the rice crops and mango fruit, she still isn’t convinced. Finally, Mina discovers something new about her mother that just might change everything, even the pouring rain.
A strong book about the importance of girls playing sports, this book has an afterword that speaks to the work of local organizations in India combating child marriage by organizing girls’ soccer games. Those games keep the girls in school, offer them a sense of accomplishment and give them a model for different roles for women and girls in society. The writing is kept simple and is filled with words in Urdu and Hindi that are defined in a glossary at the end of the book that also offers pronunciation guidance. They are used cleverly in context so that readers will immediately understand them as well.
The art in this picture book is vibrant despite the rain. It offers a look at life in rural India, the vibrancy of the textiles, and the connection to nature. It also clearly depicts Mina’s love for her mother even when they don’t agree.
A powerful look at sports and girls in an interesting part of our world. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Cinnamon by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Divya Srinivasan (9780062399618, Amazon)
A princess who is blind also doesn’t speak. Her parents, the Rajah and the Rani, offer a place in the palace and other rewards to anyone who can get Cinnamon to talk. Though the kingdom is remote, people journey there to try but no one was successful. The one day a talking tiger came to the palace and offered to help. Though everyone was frightened, Cinnamon’s parents allowed the tiger to try. Using a series of experiences like pain, fear and love, the tiger proceeded to tell Cinnamon stories. The next morning, the princess was able to talk but things don’t quite go according to plan.
Gaiman excels at writing books with a deep ambiguity and no pressure to have a moral or lesson at the end. This book has exactly that and it is why the book works to very well. He embraces the questions, allows the wonder to simply be there, and twists the story away from where traditional tales would end and towards a more shifting place that allows more dreaming.
The illustrations firmly place this book of a mythical India. Filled with rich colors, they have a distinct flatness to them that works well with a folktale subject like this. They are also filled with small details that adds a delicacy and luxuriance to the images.
Great illustrations bring this book previously only available on audio into the world of children and stories. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
This picture book puts an Eastern Indian twist on The Wheels on the Bus rhyme. Here it’s the tuk tuk taxi’s wheels that go round and round instead. The picture book captures the hustle and bustle of a city in India with people getting on and off the tuk tuk, rupees going ching ching as payments are made, and people having to squish in together.The tuk tuk stops for cows in the road and also for a drink of chai for the driver. There are spraying elephants and then the trip ends with Diwali fireworks in the sky. It’s a merry and dynamic ride that pays homage to the original while being uniquely its own story.
It is the energy of this book that makes it so much fun. The setting is captured in small moments that make sure that readers know that they are somewhere specific and exceptional. The rhyme retains its dynamic pace with the tuk tuk filling with passengers of all ages as the book moves along the streets of India.
The illustrations in the book are bright and cheery. They show busy streets with monkeys, cows, goats and more. Good food appears like steaming chai and poppadoms and then is happily shared with one another.
A superb look at another culture through a familiar preschool rhyme, this picture book invites readers along for a ride of a different sort. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
When Arun went to stay at his grandfather Mahatma Gandhi’s village, he worried that he would not be able to live up to his famous name. Arun walked all the way from the station to the village and made his grandfather proud, but he continued to fret that he would not do the right thing the next time. The village was very different from where he lived before. Arun had to share his grandfather’s attention with 350 followers who lived there as well. Arun struggled with his studies and the other kids teased him as well. He found the meditation and prayers difficult too. His grandfather urged him to give it time, that peace would come. However, Arun just found it more and more frustrating. When Arun finally lost his temper with another boy, he had to tell his grandfather about it, worried that he would be told that he would never live up to his name. How will Mahatma Gandhi react to this angry young man?
Gandhi relates his own memories of his grandfather, offering his honest young reactions to this amazing yet also formidable man. The book resulted from Arun recounting childhood stories aloud. Hegedus emailed him afterwards and asked to work on a book with him, though she felt very unworthy of such a project. The book is beautifully written and speaks to everyone who has felt that electric anger surge through them too. Hegedus sets the stage very nicely for the lesson, allowing time for Arun’s anger to build even as she shows the lifestyle of the village and Mahatma Gandhi himself. It is a book that is crafted for the most impact, building to that moment of truth.
Turk’s illustrations add much to the book. Using mixed media, he offers oranges, purples, deep pinks and more that show the heat not only of the climate but of Arun’s anger. Throughout, he also uses fabrics for the clothing, creating three-dimensional depth to the paintings. When Arun’s emotions flare, the illustrations show that with tangles of black thread that all bring readers back to the image of Gandhi spinning neat white thread. The contrast is subtle and profound.
Personal and noteworthy, this is a picture book about Gandhi that is entirely unique and special. Appropriate for ages 5-8.