Children’s Books

dd48863f8daa2bb9a476529b525e2f79-1I remember my childhood in India as uncluttered, simple, and uncomplicated. Festivals came and went. Sweets were made, relished, and shared. Gifts and new clothes were bought. And somewhere in between all this revelry, at school, on television, and through my all-favorite Amar Chitra Kathas, I learnt the significance of the celebrations. Ram’s return from exile came to mind during Diwali. The victory of good over evil burned bright in my memory of Holi, and Sankrant, when kites flew colorful and free in the clear January skies, was the joy of a good harvest.

Lights for Gita tells the story of Gita, a young girl like any other, eager with the excitement of the forthcoming Diwali festival. Only, she is far away from the lights and sounds, in a new land that is strange and silent. Gita, along with her parents, is in America where her dad’s new job takes them from New Delhi. Gita’s parents are determined to cheer up their daughter with Diwali celebrations. Her father has promised to come home early with firecrackers. Her mother makes her favorite sweets, and Gita has invited five of her friends to share the joy of Diwali with her. Yet, as Gita races home from school in the November chill, she is not convinced that Diwali is going to be the same as it was in India.

In Lights for Gita, Rachna Gilmore tells a simple, warm story of Diwali in America. More importantly, her story touches upon the travails of adjustments faced by children when they are transplanted to a new country. Diwali for Gita does not turn out the way she had planned. But the way she finally celebrates the festival symbolizes her adaptation to her new surroundings.

In Roses for Gita, Gita, who has just moved into a new house with her parents, misses her grandmother in India. Each day she wakes up dreaming of her grandmother’s beautiful garden, the soft petals of her fragrant roses, and her grandmother’s voice, singing. She sets about planning to recreate the comforting familiarity of her grandmother’s garden, with rose bushes, twisty paths, and bursting with color. As she wanders through their dull grassy yard, imagining the smells, sounds, and sights of her grandmother’s garden, she encounters her neighbor Mr. Flinch, a mean old man with an incredibly lovely garden, and a beautiful talent for playing the violin. The story goes on with Gita extending her friendship to Mr. Flinch. Do they become friends?

Lights for Gita and Roses for Gita are everyday stories of young children. What makes them different is that they portray the bewilderment faced by immigrant children in a foreign country. Gilmore’s style is uncomplicated and direct, yet it effectively captures the dilemmas of children caught between two cultures. These are stories for the cross-cultural generation, who have to deal with more than just school, homework, and play.—Nitya Ramanan

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