________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 11 . . . . January 25, 2008


Indian Tales: A Barefoot Collection.

Shenaaz Nanji. Illustrated by Christopher Corr.
Cambridge, MA: Barefoot Books (Distributed by Fire the Imagination, 21 Suffolk St. W., Guelph, ON, N1H 2H9), 2007.
96 pp, hardcover, $24.99.
ISBN 978-1-84686-083-6.

Subject Heading:

Kindergarten-grade 4 / Ages 5-9.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

**** /4

Reviewed from f&g’s


Barefoot Books celebrates art and story again in a colourful collection of tales from South Asia. It is our experience that one of the biggest audiences for folklore from a country will be the children and parents whose heritage is in that area. This volume should be no exception.

     The first part of the book, “Welcome to India,” includes a thumbnail history of the country, a world map and a map of the subcontinent showing India’s location, and a page of interesting facts. Thereafter, each section features information about one Indian state, followed by a story from that state.

     We learn in the first of these chapters that:      

Gujarat is a vegetarian state. During celebrations an Indian meal called thali is served in small steel bowls on a round silver platter. Typical dishes include different curries, rice, bread or roti, curd, chutney or pickles and a sweet dish. Favorite ingredients include yogurt, buttermilk, coconut, groundnut, sesame seed, chutney and pickles.

     Here we have the idea for a perfect classroom activity or the basis for a library program plus an accompanying story.

     The tale from Tamil Nadu, “Priya’s Magic Bowl,” is an Asian version of the vessel that cannot be emptied (here, because of the intervention of some helpful forest spirits), and “Five Men in a Cart” from Andhra Pradesh is a classic noodlehead story. Having been scolded for not stopping to retrieve the turban that has fallen off the head of their sleeping teacher, the men make amends in the following way:

The five men in the bullock cart set off for the market once more.

Further along the road, Guru dozed off again.

Soon the droppings of the bullocks fell heavily onto the road.

Plop! Plop! Plop!

The four men looked at each other, horrified. They were supposed to pick up anything that fell on the road.

‘Stop!’ cried two men. ‘We must pick up the dung, even if it is filthy. We must obey Guruji.’

‘No!’ said the other two. ‘We will be late for the market!’

The four men argued for a while. They looked at their sleeping teacher and recalled his orders – to pick up ANYTHING that fell on the road.

     One can imagine the roars of laughter that reading this story to a group of 7- and 8-year-olds would elicit.

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     Christopher Corr has illustrated the song He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, and the eye-popping acrylic paintings for this book add yet another fancy feather to his cap. The Indian peoples representing a variety of cultures are depicted here in daily and special occasion mode. Naïve in style and filling the pages with bright sunshine yellow, pink and turquoise, these illustrations are a fitting complement to the rich text from Calgary resident Shenaaz Nanji.

Highly Recommended.

Ellen Heaney is Head, Children’s’ Services, at the New Westminster Public Library in New Westminster, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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