MY DADIMA WEARS A SARI by Kashmira Sheth. Peachtree Publishers. March 2007. $16.95. 32 page.
Kashmira Sheth is the author of the award-winning Blue Jasmine, a novel about a young child’s immigrant experience, and more recently, Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet, a coming-of-age novel set in Bombay. Now she has made a wonderful debut into the children’s picture book genre with My Dadima Wears a Sari, targeted for the 4 to 8 age bracket. Sheth is an Indian-American writer who uses autographical details to augment her creative streak. The inspiration for this story was her mother’s visit to America, and the two girl characters are named after the writer’s children, Rupa and Neha. My Dadima Wears a Sari is a tale that will be especially savored when read aloud by a grandparent to a grandchild or a parent to a child. The book lovingly celebrates the multifunctional, beautiful sari in an American setting.
The narrator is the child Rupa, who is astonished that her grandmother wears saris all the time. The old lady proceeds to get her granddaughter to fall in love with her Indian attire in a fun-loving manner. She fans Rupa with the end of her sari to show her it can be used to keep them cool. She tells her granddaughter that if they go to the beach they can wrap shells in her sari. She tents the sari over Rupa and herself to show how it can serve as an umbrella. Their interaction is delightful to witness for its playfulness and also because it shows us the strength of their bond.
Rupa and her younger sister, Neha, play hide and seek using their grandmother’s sari. “When I grow up, will you make me a sari?” Neha asks. Dadima teaches her grandchildren that a sari can fit anyone, and she explains what it is and how it’s worn. She tells them she has three special saris commemorating three important occasions and that two of them are for the girls.
The illustrator, Yoshiko Jaeggi, also makes her debut in picture books with My Dadima Wears a Sari. In keeping with the playful spirit of the story, she has given us lively, engaging pictures. One especially nice touch is that the children’s cat seems to egg them on to have fun with their grandmother’s sari.
A picture book about the sari seemed destined to come out given the growing number of Indian-American children. We are lucky a talented writer like Sheth has fulfilled the need. She teaches children that saris can be part of a family’s heritage and that “each sari passed from one generation to another tells stories and holds memories in its folds.”
Tara Menon is a freelance writer based in Lexington, Massachusetts.
KARNA: THE GREATEST ARCHER IN THE WORLD by Vatsala Sperling. Illustrated by Sandeep Johari. Bear Cub Books. October 2007. Hardcover. 32 pages. $15.95.
Karna: The Greatest Archer in the World is written by Vatsala Sperling, an author who enjoys writing about Indian folklore and Hindu mythology. Some of her other works include How Ganesh Got his Elephant Head, How Parvati Won the Heart of Shiva,Ram the Demon Slayer, andHanuman’s Journey to Medicine Mountain. Her latest book, meant for children between ages 6-9, is easy to read and understand.
This book has a Cast of Characters and also contains a section that gives the background of the story, including where the story takes place and who Karna is. This helps the young readers get an appropriate context before they start reading the main story.
The story tells of how Princess Kunti had a son, Karna, but had no option but to send Karna away. It goes on to describe Karna’s life, his generosity and other virtues, and how the curses inflicted on Karna take their toll when he is killed in the great war in the Mahabharata. Karna evokes a lot of sympathy as the tragic hero of the Mahabharata and is revered for his loyalty, honor, and generosity.
One of the best things about the book is its illustrations. Each of Sandeep Johari’s pictures is captivating and vividly describes each scene. He uses watercolors and blends them for a 3-dimensional effect. Johari also used traditional wash and opaque tempra paints for all his pictures. Karna: The Greatest Archer in the World is a perfect book for children who want to learn more about Indian folklore.
Aradhana Sinha, a seventh grader at Buena Vista Middle School in Salinas, is a voracious reader.