CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 15 . . . . December 9, 2011
Guru Nanak: The First Sikh Guru.
Rina Singh. Illustrated by Andrée Pouliot.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood/House of Anansi Press, 2011.
64 pp., hardcover, $24.95.
Nanak, Guru, 1469-1538-Juvenile literature.
Sikh gurus-India-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.
Review by Ann Ketcheson.
When Nanak was brought to him, Bhago demanded an explanation.
“Is the food that low caste host of yours serves better than mine?” he asked, pointing to the delicacies at his feast.
“I don’t belong to any caste, and therefore I don’t belong at your feast,” said Nanak.
But Bhago insisted that Nanak accept his food too.
Nanak asked Mardana to fetch a piece of bread from Lalo’s house. When Mardana returned, Nanak took the bread from Lalo’s house in one hand and the bread from Bhago’s feast in the other. He squeezed his hands. Milk trickled from Lalo’s coarse bread and drops of blood oozed from Bhago’s rich fried bread. No one was more surprised than Bhago himself.
“Why is there blood in my bread?” he asked, alarmed.
“Your bread is stolen from the poor, and Lalo’s comes from honest labor,” said Nanak.
Ghago fell at Nanak’s feet and became his disciple.
Guru Nanak was the first Sikh guru and the founder of the Sikh religion. Born more than five hundred years ago in India, Guru Nanak spent his life travelling through India as well as to Sri Lanka and Tibet. He hoped to spread the word of God, and he taught revolutionary ideas, such as the equality of men and women, of Hindus and Muslims, of people belonging to various castes.
Author Rina Singh provides a variety of stories from Nanak’s life which illustrate his beliefs and his teachings. In her introduction, she points out the tales “may have been embellished with metaphors and miracles” (page 11), but this does not mean they are any less important for those who follow the Sikh religion or those who wish to learn more about what is now the world’s fifth largest religion. Reading Singh’s account of Guru Nanak, one inevitably sees parallels with leaders of the world’s other great faith groups.
This small book includes lovely illustrations by Andrée Pouliot which give readers a sense of Guru Nanak’s India in the 1400's. Singh includes a brief introduction which provides essential background to the basics of the Sikh religion. Within the stories, she quotes from the poetry of Guru Nanak, and the last pages contain a map showing Guru Nanak’s travels, a list of the 10 Sikh gurus, a glossary and a list of recommended books for further reading.
Rina Singh grew up hearing stories about Guru Nanak from her grandmother. Children interested in history, in religion or in India will be glad that Singh took time to write them down and pass them on to others.
Ann Ketcheson, who lives in Ottawa, ON, is a retired teacher librarian and teacher of high school English and French.
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