By Rabani Garg
A storyteller, Rabani has been working extensively with books, stories and little children for the last 5 years. She runs Reading Caterpillar – a children’s library and a reading program. She grew up travelling, living and studying all over India. Rabani lives in New Delhi with her husband and two daughters.
This month’s pick are three books, all from or about India and each one different. One is inspired by the lyrical style of traditional storytellers – an innately Indian tale with beautiful tribal art for its illustrations. Another was written a 113 years ago by a Scottish lady for her daughters – a story from the land of tigers and ghee (clarified butter). And yet another shares fantastic information on India – a definite treasure for a little traveler!
It’s Only A Story
By: Cathy Spagnoli, Illustrations by Uma Krishnaswami
Published by Tulika
Ages: 3 to 7 years
A gem of a book, It’s Only A Story is the simple story of an Ant who invites her friend the peacock over for a meal of hot spicy curry but tumbles into the pot while stirring it and unknowingly starts a chain of events! Listening to this story comes with its own consequences. And in spite of a warning against the story, curiosity gets the better of many. A river turns white, a mango tree’s leaves drop off, an elephant’s tail falls off, a crow’s wings stop flapping, a Rani’s silver tray shakes and a Rajah gets stuck to his throne and ALL this for only a story!
This is a fantastic chain story with repetitive text that will engage little children and grown-ups alike as they try to remember the sequence of events right up to the end when everything reverts to normal and the ant climbs out of the pot. The twist and turns in the story make it a fun read-a-loud book as everyone tries to keep up with what happens next.
The artwork in the book is inspired from the Warli paintings, a tribal art form from Mahrashtra. The Warli tribe decorates the walls of the homes with paintings depicting stories from their everyday life.
Traditionally made with rice paste and painted over mud walls, this beautiful folk art with simple geometric shapes has found its way into the modern world.
The illustrations in this book are beautiful; a narrow strip running through the pages depicts the story as it unfolds, sequencing the events so you never lose track of the chain. These illustrations are a great way of introducing children (and adults) to Warli art. The forms are simple and fun to try out, and children can draw their own stories.
You can read more about warli paintings here
The Story of Little Babaji
By: Helen Bannerman, Illustrated by Fred Marcellino.
Published by Harper Collins
Ages: 3+ years
Written by Helen Bannerman in 1899, the book was originally titled ‘The Story of Little Black Sambo’, the story takes place in India with its tigers and ‘ghee’ (clarified butter). Helen lived in India for thirty years and wrote and illustrated this story as a gift for her two daughters. For this new edition of the The Story of Little Babaji, the characters – the little boy and his parents have been given Indian names. The book has been illustrated by the award winning artist / illustrator Fred Marcellino
This is an endearing story of a clever little boy who ensures his safety by trading his grand colorful clothes, purple shoes and green umbrella one by one with the four tigers that he encounters on his walk through the jungle. And the tigers? Well, each one thinks that he looks the grandest and in a rage each bites the next one’s tail making a ring around a palm tree, whizzing around till they all melt away! All is well as Little Babaji heads back home with his clothes intact and just in time to eat one hundred and sixty nine, yellow and brown (just like little tigers) pancakes all made in ‘ghee’!
Elephant Dance, A Journey to India
By: Theresa Heine. Illustrated by Sheila Moxley
Published by Barefoot Books
Ages: 4 to 10 years
I came across this book while looking for stories on India to share with children. Told as a story, the book contains fascinating facts about India. Ravi and Anjali’s grandfather comes to visit them and regales them with stories of India, a land where the sun is like a ferocious tiger, the wind a wild horse, the rain a cascading waterfall and the rainbow is like seven silk saris hung to dry. And the shape of India (and this one I could have never thought of) ‘is the ear of an elephant’! At supper time every member of the family helps prepare an Indian meal of Daal, fish and rice. The story has it all; the weather, the landscape, the days of the kings, the festivals, the food and the music. The text is lyrical and the illustrations vivid and playful. My favorite most definitely is the double page spread of the Map of India.
This is a perfect book for children if you are traveling to India or want to introduce a new country. It’s very concise and full of interesting and engaging information. At the end of the book are fact sheets on India – the geography, culture and religion, the animals of India and food. There is even a music score for children to dance the Elephant Dance! A great book from one of my favorite publishing houses – Barefoot Books.
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