Review: Chandra’s Magic Light by Theresa Heine

chandras magic light

Chandra’s Magic Light: A Story in Nepal by Theresa Heine and Judith Gueyfier

Chandra and her sister Deena were at the market when they saw a man selling a strange lamp.  There was a large crowd around him as he explained that the lamp gathered energy from the sun.  It would cost less money than a kerosene lamp over time, and it was much healthier too.  Chandra’s baby brother had a bad cough, and she knew that this lamp would help him.  But the lamp was too expensive for them so they headed home quickly to tell their father of the lamp.  But their father didn’t understand the need for a magic lamp or have the funds to spend on one.  The girls even showed their father a solar lamp that their neighbor had purchased, but still the cost was too high.  So the sisters decided that they would work to get the down payment for a lamp.  They picked rhododendrons in the hills and sold them at the market.  But even then, they did not have enough money.  This story focuses on the efforts of two girls to change the lives of their family members through one act of kindness and hard work.

This book draws the reader into the world of Nepal, evoking the sights, smells and sounds of the busy market before launching into an explanation of the importance of the solar lamps.  The authors make sure that readers understand the poverty of the family, the hardships they face and their inability to purchase the lamp they need.  The final pages of the book contain facts about Nepal and the way people live there. 

The illustrations are bright colored, filled with the colors of Nepal and with the bright colors of the clothing.  When the girls head to pick rhododendrons, the pages fill with the blossoms.  Those deep pinks and reds are also echoed throughout the home of the family and the clothes that the girls wear.  The colors are rich and saturated.

A strong female protagonist, a just cause, a glimpse of Nepalese culture, and a message of sustainability make this a strong addition to any library.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.


Namaste! by Diana Cohn, illustrated by Amy Cordova

Nima lives in Nepal where her father works a few weeks every year as a mountain guide.  When he leaves this year he promises to return with a story and she must have a story for his as well.  On Nima’s long walk to school in the village, she greets the people she passes with “Namaste.”  She wishes that she could help people like her father does.  That would make a wonderful story to tell him on his return.  Before heading home after school, Nima greets her father’s friend Tenzing, who is a trader.  After her greeting, Tenzing thanks her with honey telling her that she brightens his day whenever she says Namaste!  So with every greeting, Nima is helping people. 

This book exudes the feel and style of Nepal.  The meaning of Namaste is explained to readers early in the book, so they will understand what Nima is really telling people and why it is so special.  The story is simple and gentle, filled with the daily rhythms of another part of the world which allow us a glimpse into what is similar and different.  Cohn’s prose is sprinkled with words that work well in the context and can be looked up in the glossary as well.  Cordova’s art really ties this book to Nepal through traditional art motifs and iconic images such as the prayer flags. 

This book is a fast and fascinating way to make a quick visit to Nepal and see it through the eyes of a little girl.  It is a book that celebrates the simple and the profound at once.  Namaste!

Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.


Below you can take a look at a video with the author and illustrator talking about the book: